Throughout 2020 and 2021, higher education communities have faced a range of unique and wide-reaching challenges resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact. Students and staff have experienced significant disruption and uncertainty as universities have adapted to remote working and learning environments. These challenges, coupled with the inherent stress and uncertainty of a global pandemic, have impacted the mental health and wellbeing of members of our university communities.
Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity, made it their priority to listen to higher education communities. Through their own research, it was found that:
- 74% of students reported that Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing at university
- 49% of students reported that the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their financial situation
- Two-thirds of respondents say they have ‘often felt isolated or lonely since March 2020’
- 82% of respondents say the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their academic experience
- 65% of respondents say they needed additional help/advice during the Covid-19 pandemic. Of these, just 19% actually got the help they needed.
These findings are explored throughout their report, which covers topics including (but not limited to): the Black and Minority Ethnic Experience in the last year, Women’s Safety at University, accommodation, finances, experiences of online learning, staff wellbeing, and access to support.
The report includes a set of policy recommendations, aimed at supporting the higher education and health sectors to move beyond the pandemic positively. These include:
- The government should provide universal and targeted financial support for students, with a minimum £500 payment for all students as well as top-up funding for those disproportionately impacted.
- Universities should co-produce approaches to pedagogy, with flexibility and sensitivity to students’ individual needs and preferences.
- Universities and the government should put measures in place to tackle and prevent digital poverty.
- The government and universities should prioritise prevention and early intervention of mental health problems through greater funding and active cultural change.
- Universities, the government and the NHS should plan for the mental health impacts of the pandemic to outlast the pandemic itself.