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National survey reveals gaps in wellbeing support for UK students

Student looking into distance
Image credit: Sean Kong (Unsplash)

In a national survey of over 300,000 UK students, less than half felt they had received enough help for maintaining their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in calls for better support

Every year, the Office for Students (OfS) carries out a survey of almost half a million students from across the country to gauge satisfaction in university and college education.

Usually the survey provides a broad overview of opinions and experiences which gives a good indication of what is and isn't working in places of higher education. But with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic in early-2020, the recent focus of the survey has been on support for students, including mental health and wellbeing services.

Last year, the general consensus of the survey was that students were satisfied with the quality of their course, although issues with communication from their place of study remained a concern.

In 2021 though, it seems overall satisfaction is just one of many aspects of student learning that have declined.

Perhaps the most concerning figure is regarding mental wellbeing support of which the OfS has expressed serious concerns. According to the findings, only 42% of students felt that they had received enough help.

Nicola Dandridge, CEO of OfS, commented on these results stating “Clearly the

circumstances last year were exceptional, but consideration should be given to what more can be done to ensure students are appropriately supported.

“As prospective and current students look to the autumn, it will be important that universities combine credible plans to restore face-to-face teaching with sensible contingency planning in the event that some restrictions need to continue.”


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The survey also shows that the general positive experience of students on their courses has declined, with only 75% of students classifying their course experience as 'positive', down from 83% in 2020.

This figure may partly be due to changes in how students have been taught. Less than half of respondents said that they were content with their means of learning and teaching.

Covid-related questions and answers from the 2021 National Student Survey
Covid-related questions and answers from the 2021 National Student Survey. Question 3 regards wellbeing support.

There were however some slightly more positive figures to come out of the survey – 78% stated that they were able to find the resources they needed for studying.

Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK commented that “After a very unusual and challenging year, it is not surprising to see that the pandemic has shifted students’ views on their overall university experience.

“Universities have done all they can to help students progress and meet their learning outcomes with additional learning and wellbeing support at the same time as implementing Covid-19 safety measures.”

Read more about this year’s National Student Survey here.


Written by Sylvie Ward

News reporter at Talking Mental Health


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