Coronavirus: only 49% of students happy with online learning, says Hepi poll

The survey asked students and applicants how the coronavirus pandemic was affecting their studies

A new poll of undergraduates and university applicants has shown the extent of their concern about the impact of coronavirus upon their futures – and their views on online learning.

The Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) worked with YouthSight to poll over 1,000 full-time undergraduate students and over 500 applicants to higher education about how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting them.

While the majority of students feel their university’s messaging around coronavirus has been clear, just under a half feel satisfied with the online learning that has replaced face-to-face teaching.

The results: Students

  • 70% of students think the messaging from their university on coronavirus has been clear; 18% feel it has been either ‘quite unclear’ or ‘very unclear’
  • 36% think their assessments for the rest of the year should be cancelled, while 17% would like them to be postponed until after the crisis
  • 49% are content with online learning; 23% are dissatisfied; 29% feel neither satisfied nor unsatisfied
  • While 55% of students have moved away from their term-time accommodation, 45% are still in their term-time accommodation
Just under half of students (49%) are satisfied with the online learning that has replaced their face-to-face teaching

The results: Applicants

  • 53% feel the messaging they have received on coronavirus from their prospective universities has been clear
  • Almost a third (29%) feel less confident that they will get a place at their chosen university, compared to 20% who feel more confident
  • 79% say the crisis has not affected which university will be their first choice. 7% plan to change their first-choice university and another 14% are undecided
  • 46% expect their predicted grades to reflect their final grade; 27% believe their predicted grades are worse than their final grades would have been
Most A-level students have not changed their minds about their first choice university

Both applicants and students feel they have had clear information around the pandemic

“These results show universities are supporting students and applicants well through these challenging times,” said Rachel Hewitt, director of policy and advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute. “Despite having to scale up online provision very quickly, few students are dissatisfied with the offering from their institution. Both applicants and students feel they have had clear information around the pandemic.

“On admissions, it is clear applicants need greater certainty about what will happen to their university places. It is essential this group, who have already lost out on the end of their school experience, are not disadvantaged from getting into the university of their choice. The data shows this is a concern for a significant minority of applicants.

“Despite all the uncertainty, much remains the same. Two-thirds of students still want the opportunity to complete their assessments from afar. The majority of applicants still intend to go to the same university as before the crisis. What’s more, many students are still living in their term-time residence, meaning they may be reliant on the support of their university and accommodation providers.”

It is positive to see that the vast majority of students acknowledge the efforts being made to communicate with them

Universities UK (UUK) also commented on the findings:

“In truly unprecedented times, universities are taking every possible measure is to ensure the university community is well-informed, supported and safe and institutions are continuing to work with government, the health authorities and each other to ensure this continues. It is positive to see that the vast majority of students acknowledge the efforts being made to communicate with them about the situation, how it impacts their studies and the support available to them.

“Decisions, including those concerning admissions, must continue to be made fairly, consistently and in the best interests of students. UUK has confidence in the way A-levels will be awarded this year and will support Ofqual as they continue to develop their precise methodology. Students can be reassured that universities will be flexible in taking an applicants’ context into account as part of the admissions process. No student should feel rushed into a decision at what is already a difficult time for them.”

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