Half of undergrads don’t expect face-to-face teaching to resume this year – Hepi survey

A survey by the Higher Education Policy Institute suggests most students have not received financial compensation from universities or accommodation providers

More than half of undergraduates do not expect face-to-face teaching to resume this academic year, a new survey suggests.

The Youthsight survey commissioned by the Higher Education Policy Institute found satisfaction with online teaching among undergraduates has slipped slightly since November 2020, from 59% to 54%, but remains higher than the previous academic year, when that figure stood at 42%.

Of the 1,000 students polled, 56% expect their university education to remain online-only for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year, compared to 44% who expect in-person teaching to resume.

Two-thirds of students (66%) are residing in their usual term-time accommodation, compared to 34% who are not. Statistics from the Office for National Statistics, covering England from 19 February to 1 March, found that 85% of students lived in the same address as they did at the start of the Autumn 2020 term. Enquiries by student housing charity Unipol found that around 60% of private Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) and approximately 70% of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are occupied at present.

The figures come as Universities UK lobbies government to confirm a start date for all undergraduates, tentatively posited as 12 April. The government has permitted students of key vocational disciplines, like healthcare and teaching, and those on practical or practice-based subjects, like laboratory-based sciences and performing arts, to return to HE campuses. UUK and the university mission groups want the government to extend the return to campus order to the rest of the student cohort. The Hepi survey suggests the majority of students are resigned to those efforts proving unsuccessful.

The survey suggests most students have not been reimbursed by their university or accommodation provider following the disruption to this academic year. Two-thirds (66%) have received no restitution; 19% have received compensation from their accommodation provider, and 13% from their university. A further 2% have received refunds from both.

Two-thirds (65%) of students say the messaging from their higher education institution this academic year has been clear, versus one-fifth (19%) who say the opposite.

A majority (63%) of students report that their mental health is worse because of the pandemic, compared to 14% who say their mental health is better. 21% describe their mental health as “much worse”. A quarter (23%) describe their mental health as unchanged. Hepi warned universities to be “mindful” of student mental health, particularly as its survey suggests just 38% are satisfied with the delivery of mental health services and 24% are unsatisfied.


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