Why are over a quarter of students not attending anything in-person?

It’s always important to differentiate between correlation and causation.

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

That’s a mantra to keep in mind when interrogating the ONS Student COVID-19 Insights Survey (SCIS), the latest results of which cover 25 February to 7 March 2022.

For those that had attended 0 hours of in-person teaching in the previous seven days, only 57 percent ticked satisfied or very satisfied. But for those who attended 1 or more hours, that figure rises to 74 percent. The direction of the causation, even if it is that simple, remains up for debate.

(Brief reminder – we’re looking here at home domiciled students in England, results weighted for age, gender and region.)

As in previous iterations, 27 percent of students reporting that they attended 0 hours of in-person (training and placements included) in the previous week feels high – what we don’t know is whether it’s 0 because there was nothing in-person to attend, or low engagement for other reasons.

It’s a puzzle that manifests on the mental health stats too. For students that attended 0 hours, 20 percent had low life satisfaction, 27 percent responded low on life worthwhile, and 22 percent were lonely often or always. For those attending an hour or more, those scores were 13 percent on low life satisfaction, 12 percent on low life worthwhile, and 15 percent on lonely often or always.

It’s enough of a difference to mean that the OfS blended learning review can’t really ignore the question. We really do need to know if the pattern of in-person attendance required by a course is causing a mental health crisis, or if a mental health crisis is causing an attendance crisis, or a bit of both.

Anxiety remains stubbornly high whether they’re attending in-person teaching or not – with 68 percent of students reporting high or very high levels of self-reported anxiety. If the sector or the government decided to do anything about that back in November, it hasn’t worked.

Elsewhere in the survey, students appear to be doing roughly what everyone else is doing when it comes to boosters, tests and so on.

One response to “Why are over a quarter of students not attending anything in-person?

  1. With many students it’s because they left the University area during the Covid period when most provision was online and do not want to move back for a relatively short period. I especially see this with international students who moved to London and don’t want to return.

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