Just who makes up the “zero hours” club?

This is odd. In early November, over a quarter of students said they had had zero hours of in-person teaching in the previous seven days.

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

Given what the sector has been saying about blended learning this term, that can’t be right?

Last time we looked at that figure – taken from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Student COVID-19 Insights Survey (SCIS) – a number of theories were posited. Perhaps the sample included international students unable to get into the country studying remotely. Perhaps we were looking at an early-ish reading week. Maybe the teaching was being recorded, which meant (some) students didn’t have to attend in-person.

This time we’re looking at responses from 5 to 15 November, and applying the proper weighting (age, gender, region) we get to 27 percent. The sample excludes international students but includes both PGTs and PGRs.

It nevertheless still feels high when compared to what the sector is telling itself, the outside world and Student Finance England about attendance this term. We’ve asked ONS for anything else it can tell us about the characteristics of the “0 percenters”, but for now the thing to bear in mind is that their active satisfaction with their academic experience is eleven percentage points lower than for the rest.

One thing that might explain what’s happening is a set of questions on distance learning methods deployed “always or most of the time”. 32 percent report experiencing “pre-set activities (for example forum posts) by a teacher with marking and feedback”, 22 percent are doing online group work, a third are getting pre-recorded lectures (which we assume to be different to recorded lectures per-se) and 40 percent have had live online sessions.

It doesn’t feel like much of a “blend” for many, but as I say, we’ve asked for more info.

Where students are actively dissatisfied, 71 percent cite learning delivery, 43 percent cite access to resources or facilities, and 45 percent say personal support.

In the rest of the survey everything’s fairly constant from a few weeks back. The majority (9 in 10) of students said they had already been vaccinated against coronavirus at least once – this is not significantly different to late October, but the percentage becoming double vaxxed has grown in line with entitlement to a second dose.

(The lesson here by the way appears to be that while quite a number of students weren’t getting vaxxed over the summer, that accellerated once term began. If the JCVI recommends all adults for boosters soon – albeit with the 5 month delay between dose 2 and booster – it’s going to make sense for there to be somewhere on campus to get that third dose for the next few months).

Mental health is still a concern – the average life satisfaction score for students was 6.7, significantly lower than those aged 16 to 29 years (6.9) and the adult population in Great Britain (7.0). Three in ten (30 percent) students reported that their mental health and well-being had worsened since the start of the autumn 2021 term, anxiety is still running alarmingly high and 17 percent of students are feeling lonely “often or always” – significantly higher than those aged 16 to 29 years (9 percent) and the adult population in Great Britain (7 percent).

And as ever, correlation isn’t causation – but of those satisfied with their academic experience, 42 percent say their mental health has improved this term with 23 percent saying it’s declined – but for those dissatisfied we’re only looking at 15 percent whose mental health has improved, with 61 percent saying it’s worsened.

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