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As we reach the end of the first university term of the academic year, which has been defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, quarantine, and cancelled classes, the digital learning platform, Quizlet, has been gauging the mood of university students on how the disruption has affected – and can be anticipated to affect – their studies and social life.

With more than 50 million users globally each month, Quizlet is relied upon by students for revision, distance learning, and sharing notes with their peers.

Gathering responses from more than 1,000 UK university students (over half of whom are in their first year of studies), Quizlet can reveal that the wellbeing of young people at university has been markedly damaged by their having commenced further education in the midst of the greatest upheaval to the academic system in memory.

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Key findings include:

● 91% of students have experienced difficulty in making friends on their university course
● 86% of students believe they should receive a ‘full or partial refund’ on their course fees
● 77% feel that university lockdown restrictions have had a ‘negative’ effect on their mental health
● 66% of students have personally (or know someone who has) considered dropping out
● 56% are concerned about the long-term impacts of the pandemic on their work prospects
● Should lessons be online only, 38% of students state they intend to return to their university accommodation in 2021, whereas another 38% will not

In response to the data, Rahim Hirji, UK Country Manager at Quizlet, comments: “The first term of university is meant to be a chance to grow as an individual and experience new cultures, learnings, and locations. With this pandemic rocking the education system to its core, what we’re left with is many young people leaving their first experiences of university life feeling incredibly weary, demoralised and somewhat lost.

“What is absolutely crucial for universities is to ensure that this difficult experience in bedding-in does not turn a whole generation away from higher education, which remains a very real risk based on the results of our research. We know how important it is for people to learn skills and expertise that will fuel careers and opportunities for their futures and university education is an important springboard for many students’ futures.”

Extended findings

● On the impact on mental health as a result of the pandemic restrictions:

○ 77% of students say restrictions have had a ‘negative effect’ on their mental health
○ 16% of students say restrictions have had ‘no effect’ on their mental health:
○ 7% of students say restrictions have had a positive effect on my mental health (preferring remote lessons and studying from home)

● On the difficulty of making friends with university classmates:

○ 91% of students say they have had ‘difficulty’ making friends on their course
○ 9% of students say they had ‘no difficulty’ in making friends on their course

● On the effectiveness of the blended in-person and remote teaching this term:

○ 47% of students say that blended learning has been ‘effective’ to ‘very effective’
○ 53% of students say that blended learning had been ‘ineffective’ to ‘very ineffective’

● On whether students have considered dropping out, abandoning, or changing degree due to the coronavirus pandemic:

○ 66% of students have personally (or know someone who has) considered dropping out
○ 43% of students say they have personally considered changing or abandoning their chosen degree
○ 57% of students say they have not considered changing or abandoning their degree

● On the long-term effects on career prospects:

○ 56% of students are concerned about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on their chosen career
○ 44% of students are not concerned about the effect on future employment

● On returning home for Christmas and, potentially, spreading the virus:

○ 40% of students remain ‘concerned’ about returning to their family home for Christmas
○ 40% of students are ‘unconcerned’ following university guidelines on isolating and testing
○ 20% remain ‘unsure’

● On the prospect of spending Christmas in university accommodation, if advised by the relevant authorities:

○ 65% would not follow advice to remain in their university accommodation
○ 17% would follow advice.
○ 18% remain ‘unsure’

● On returning to university accommodation next term, if studies were to be online:
○ 38% of students say they would return
○ 38% of students say they would not return
○ 24% remain ‘undecided’

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