A third of higher and further education students were unable to access their education online in the last academic term, according to a survey released today (September 8) by the National Union of Students (NUS).
The findings raise serious questions over the efficacy and fairness of teaching courses remotely, even as government advisors warn of the ‘significant’ Covid risk posed by a return to campus.
Forty-five percent of the 4,178 survey respondents said they were not satisfied that their education was of a good standard or quality.
Nineteen percent of students receiving learning support said they had received insufficient support for working to the best of their ability.
The second NUS Coronavirus and Students Survey took place in July, and makes troubling reading compared to when the same questions were asked in March. Back then, only a fifth of students reported being unable to access their education online, with 33% unsatisfied by the quality of their education.
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“It is unacceptable that these numbers of students have been unable to engage with their learning during this pandemic,” said NUS president, Larissa Kennedy.
“These figures must act as a wake-up call to the government and the entire education sector so that all students have the resources that they need for their learning before the start of next term.”
A number of high-level educators, as well as former universities minister, Chris Skidmore, had previously voiced concerns about the impact online learning would have on disadvantaged students.
The NUS survey found that factors leaving students unable to study adequately online include:
- Lack of IT equipment/technology
- Online materials being insufficient
- Poor or non-existent wifi
- No access to IT programmes/software
The NUS is calling for those effected to be given the option to redo the term, or have their fees written off or reimbursed.
“Coronavirus has entrenched the disadvantages that students of colour, disabled students and working class students experience, and this should be of concern to all of us,” said Kennedy.
“If we are to ensure that education is accessible for all we must eradicate injustice as quickly as we can, such as by providing students with the resources and technology that they need to learn.”
Despite the difficulties, 84% of those surveyed said that intend on continuing with their studies when the new term starts.