We really are into diminishing returns here. Students are still unhappy (both in themselves and with the provision), and still taking steps to prevent the spread of the virus – although there’s a worrying finding on vaccine take up.
This time around 7 per cent say they’re fairly unlikely or very unlikely to get the vaccine, up from 4 per cent last time around. Given what we seem to know about the potential make up of that group from other research, we’re going to need a strategy to turn that figure around. It would also be helpful to know how many students that have been offered have refused so far, but that level of granularity isn’t available here.
In terms of that question about who is “back”, as in previous results everyone can find a number to justify their position. Basically about 9 per cent of students were “away from home” in September and weren’t there by late April, up from 15 per cent last time.
So if you want to say “look, students have already moved back into the households, at least let them onto campus” you can say “9 out of 10 are there”, but given not everyone was “away” in the first place, if you want to argue the “compliant students are wasting money on rent” thing, it’s around 23 per cent of students in halls, and 6 per cent of students in HMOs who’ve stayed away.
If, by the way, the actual pandemic depended on students in HMOs following the government’s guidance, 6 per cent doing so (notwithstanding that some will need to be there and have teaching) is monumentally woeful and in some ways should be seen as a colossal failure in public policy terms.
On that theme, testing participation continues to be woeful too. 30 per cent had had a test in the previous week – more for those away from home and “back” (36 per cent in halls and 33 per cent in HMOs).
Mental health is improving. Life satisfaction is now on 5.8 up from 5.2, and happiness up to 5.9 from 5.6 – although there’s actually been a slight increase in anxiety which we can hypothesize is about assessment. On all measures students report worse M/H than the adult population in Great Britain reporting the same over a similar period.
Often or always lonely is down – 29 per cent to 22 per cent – but that just underlines the extent to which any improvements in mental health at this stage are likely to be related to the shifts seen in where students are living (in effect ignoring guidance) and the mild easing of restrictions allowing limited outdoor social activity.
Helpfully, the stats separate out those whose living arrangements have been stable all year from those that were at a different address to that of September (in other words, those studying away from home and not “allowed” back yet that have followed the guidance). That latter group has suffered more than the average – 7 in 10 of that group say their mental health is worse than in September (it’s half for the “stable” group).
Changes in satisfaction with the unhelpfully separated out “academic experience” and “social experience” (learning is social, social is learning, grrr) are within the margin of error – it’s still under half that are satisfied with the academic experience and roughly 35-40 per cent that are actively dissatisfied. If you were to argue that the 13 per cent of students who are “very dissatisfied” have taken into account the pandemic and ought to be making their opinion formal, that means a good KPI for the number of complaints that should be received by providers in England for this year should be about 269,880.
About half a million students had had at least an hour’s in-person teaching in the period (despite the fact that about 1.3m were in halls or HMOs at the time) and tellingly, there’s a 10 percentage points gap on active dissatisfaction with the academic experience between those who had had in-person teaching and those who hadn’t.
It reinforces one of the key messages coming from students about September – they love the flexibility of asynchronous and recordings of synchronous, but appear to despise (and often struggle to access) online only synchronous when they’ve moved to a campus or city to experience it. And who can blame them?