Coronavirus: Student Satisfaction Begins to Slip | HEPI x YouthSight

HE Thinking | 08 Jul 2020


In our latest poll with The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) we find that students' satisfaction with online learning is falling and they're searching for better communication on the academic year ahead.

We regularly partner with HEPI to uncover students’ views on topical issues. In this latest research we poll over 1,000 full-time undergraduate students and over 500 applicants to see how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting them.

The key takeaway from the study showed that student and applicant satisfaction levels are starting to slip in comparison to where they were at the beginning of the pandemic, and this is particularly true when it comes to communication from their higher education institution. Our CEO Ben Marks recently wrote a thought-leadership article on this topic titled: 'Universities must improve their applicant communication', which provides further insight on this area.

Key Stats from HEPI poll:

  • One in five (19%) say they have had ‘very clear’ communication on Covid-19 from their higher education institutions (down from 31% in March)
  • Two-thirds of students feel positive abut the communications received; three time higher than those who feel negative
  • Nearly half of students feel they have received clear communications about the next academic year from their higher education institution
  • The majority of students are satisfied with the way their higher education institution has handled their remaining assessments for this academic year (20% say they are ‘very clear’ and 43% say they are ‘quite satisfied’)
  • Fewer students are satisfied with online learning, which has replaced face-to-face teaching than they were March (42% are either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘quite satisfied’ compare to 49% in March)
  • Just under half of students (57%) are living away from their usual term-time residence and nearly a third (30%) off all students say they have received a refund on accommodation costs or early release from a contract
  • There is a clear hierarchy of expectations among students on the measures that institutions are exploring for the next academic year: 75% expect increased hygiene, 71% expect some learning online and 71% expect social distancing measures. But, only 26% expect limitations to courses, 25% expect a delayed start to term and 18% expect all learning to be online.


Director of Policy and Advocacy at HEPI, Rachel Hewitt commented: "Universities have been grappling with the challenges of a pandemic no one predicted, leading to a swift move to online learning. In some ways it is unsurprising that students are not completely satisfied with a model that has been created in such extraordinary times and some aspects, such as the handling of assessments, have clearly met with students’ approval. In order to improve students’ perceptions, it is important that universities use this time to learn from students what works in terms of online learning, to develop the model available for the next academic year.

"The results show that students are realistic that the next academic year is likely to be radically different to the norm. They understand that some level of social distancing is likely to remain in place and blended teaching will combine online and face-to-face teaching. However, it is concerning that less than half feel they have had clear messaging from their university about the next academic year. While it is difficult to predict exactly where we will be by September, it is important universities are as clear as possible in their communications to students.

"Staff are working their socks off to get their campuses ready for the new academic year and we hope these results will help them prepare."

Emma Hardy MP, Labour's Shadow Minister for Further Education & Universities also responded to the report: “These figures show that whilst universities have responded quickly and largely successfully to problems, there are still significant numbers of students not getting the support they need.

“Not all of this can be laid at the door of universities, which have had to meet the challenges with no meaningful help from government.

“It is paramount that the government provides the support needed so universities can feel confident in dealing with students over the impact of COVID-19 during the next academic year"

Press Coverage

Related Reading

The Covid-19 crisis means universities need to start communicating clearly, honestly, positively - and quickly with their undergraduate applicants. 

Read >

In the fourth wave of research commissioned for our client at UCAS, we look at the decision-making timeline of applicants and discuss the implications for universities. 

Read >

Find Out More

Over the last 15 years we've become famous for our work with UK universities. Our dedicated HE research team has solved challenges for over 100 universities, to help them boost their student attraction, recruitment and conversion.  

Our bespoke research is informed by exclusive tracking data so your project never starts from zero. Download our brochure to find out more or read more here.

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