Student watchdog concerned about mental health help

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Fewer students are satisfied with their course this year

The head of the Office for Students (OfS) is concerned that more than half of UK university and college students feel their mental wellbeing has not been supported enough this year.

OfS head Nicola Dandridge said more must be done to look after students.

This year's annual National Student Survey, run by the OfS, found only 42% felt enough was done to help them.

But England's Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said universities had access to up to £256m to help.

Ms Dandridge said: "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."

Ms Donelan said: "I recognise that the past 18 months have been uniquely difficult for students, and we have set out clear expectations that the quality and quantity of tuition should be maintained.

"We have also been clear that students should be receiving good quality mental health support."

Universities UK said it has done all it can to help students progress.

And the survey shows overall that three-quarters (75%) of students rated the overall experience of their courses positively, although that has gone down from 83% in 2020.

The survey - which had 332,500 responses from students across the UK - asks students about a range of factors related to their academic experience, including the teaching and organisation of their courses, assessment and feedback.

Conducted between January and April 2021 - when teaching was virtual for many students - it found that students were less happy with most things this year than 12 months previously.

  • 74% said they could access course-specific resources (equipment, software, facilities), compared with 87% last year.
  • 84% agreed staff were good at explaining things - compared with 89% in 2020
  • 76% agreed their course challenged them to achieve their best work - compared with 80%, 12 months earlier

Impact of the pandemic

This year's survey included specific questions about students' experiences during the pandemic, covering a range of issues.

Of the 184,964 students responding to this section, fewer than half (48%) said they were content with the delivery of learning and teaching of their courses.

The majority (78%) said they were able to access the learning resources they needed - such as lecture notes, course materials and virtual learning tools.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said: "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."