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Covid: Many students say their mental health is worse due to pandemic

Almost  two-thirds of university students in the UK say their mental health is  worse because of the Covid pandemic, a survey suggests.

The Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) report says ministers must “take heed” of the poll as restrictions ease.

A  total of 56% are not expecting any more face-to-face teaching in this  academic year, but 66% of them are living in their student  accommodation. 

The Department for Education has given £70 million to help students in need.

Although  school pupils across the UK have now returned to their classrooms, and  other restrictions imposed because of the pandemic are being eased,  university students are still mainly being taught online. 

The  poll of more than 1,000 full-time undergraduate students by Hepi found  that only about a fifth (19%) have received reimbursement from their  university or accommodation provider for lack of face-to-face teaching  or for being unable to live in paid-for halls or private housing.

Students across the UK face varied prospects with universities setting out different plans.

Some  institutions like the University of Edinburgh and the London School of  Economics have said they do not expect to resume face-to-face teaching  this academic year.

Others,  however, like the University of Sussex, have said they aim to deliver  some in-person teaching from Easter, according to the report.

Uncertainty for students

The  report found that the pandemic and changes to student life continued to  have a significant impact on students’ mental health.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of students said their mental health was worse as a result of the pandemic. 

Just  over a third (38%) of students were satisfied with the delivery of  mental health services, whereas 50% were satisfied with the provision of  other support services. 

More  than half of the students polled (54%) were satisfied with online  learning – down slightly from 59% in a Hepi survey conducted last  November, but higher than 42% in June.

Rachel Hewitt, director of policy and advocacy at Hepi, said the picture for students remained unclear.

“There  is talk about the student ‘return to campus’, but these results clearly  show that many students are already in their term-time accommodation,  despite most not expecting face-to-face teaching to return this academic  year. 

“Governments across the UK should take heed of these results in developing their plans to ease restrictions.”

Universities must be mindful of the impact of the pandemic on students’ mental health, she added.  

A  spokeswoman for the group Universities UK said: “There is strong  evidence that a 12 April return for all university students would  benefit the mental health, wellbeing and development of those students  who have had no in-person teaching or access to facilities this year.

“Universities  are fully prepared and looking forward to welcoming students back to  Covid-secure environments as soon as possible after Easter, with a  variety of enriching activities on offer, including in-person teaching,  access to study spaces, studios, and sports facilities, alongside  additional support for those due to graduate this year.”

A  Department for Education spokesperson said: “This has been a difficult  time for students, and we are committed to getting all students back  into university as soon as the public health situation allows. Students  on practical and creative courses started returning from the 8th of  March, and we will be reviewing options for the timing of the return of  all remaining students by the end of the Easter holidays.

“We  have also recently distributed up to £70 million to help students most  in need, for example those struggling to cover accommodation costs as a  result of the pandemic, in addition to an existing £256 million  available to universities.”

Source – BBC News

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