‘Students more resilient – but cost-of-living crisis is hitting hard’, according to new research

Four in five students (80%) feel that the cost-of-living crisis has impacted their overall university experience, according to a UK Student Wellbeing Survey commissioned by global leaders in online study success solutions Studiosity.

In the research among 2,050 students, 77% are greatly or somewhat concerned about not being able to afford to do so much socially, 67% are worried by having to sacrifice study time to do paid work, and 67% are anxious about the prospect of having to pick up an extra job to pay the bills. Other issues include not being able to afford the food shop (64%), not being able to afford to put the heating on and pay rent (60%), and not being able to buy course materials (48%).

A further 40% report feeling stressed at least once a day but, despite a 14% decrease from the 2021 survey, 57% of students have still seriously considered dropping out of university. Only 43% have positive feelings towards support their university offers (57% negative/neutral).

Despite the negative impact of the cost-of-living crisis, 81% describe their overall wellbeing as good/OK, and 52% say the pandemic has made them more resilient. In fact, 73% of students feel confident in their ability to study at university level, and 65% are very likely/likely to choose the same university again.

Two thirds of students (66%) found their university experience in 2021-22 in line with or better than their expectations – but 49% think it will be harder in the current climate to find a job after graduating.

“Students are really feeling the crunch as a result of the cost-of-living crisis,” said Isabelle Bristow, Studiosity’s Managing Director for UK and Europe. “To try to combat rising costs, students are picking up more paid work alongside their degrees which is reducing the time they have to study and socialise. As a result, students are in need of 24/7 access to additional feedback and support, whenever and wherever they want it, when they are now burdened with extra responsibilities. What is encouraging to see is students are typically more resilient as a result of the pandemic and banding together to support each other emotionally and academically.” 

In other key sector findings: 

·        Most likely to feel unsupported by their university: Females, undergraduates, and UK students (compared to EU/international students). Students who have considered dropping out are significantly more likely to not feel supported by their university.

·        Most likely to rate their wellbeing as poor: Females, undergraduates, and UK students. Those who do not feel supported by their university feel significantly worse about their wellbeing.

·        Most likely to feel more resilient following the pandemic: Males, postgraduates, and UK students. Those who describe their current wellbeing as poor feel less resilient following the pandemic years compared to those with good mental wellbeing.

·        Most likely to be stressed by studying daily: Females, undergraduates, UK students, and ages 19-20. Those who describe their current wellbeing as poor are significantly more likely to be feeling stressed constantly. Females are significantly more likely to find the amount of study the most stressful part of studying.

·        Most likely to feel anxious, isolated, experiencing self-doubt or unmotivated about studying alone: Undergraduates (especially first years), UK students, and ages 18 and under.

·        Most likely to consider quitting their course whilst struggling to study alone: Females, undergraduates, and UK students. Despite this, over half of males and half of international students have still considered dropping out. Those who feel the support from their university is poor are more likely to have considered quitting.

·        UK students are significantly more likely to find the amount of study and balancing work/life commitments the most stressful part of studying compared to international students. EU/international students are significantly more likely to find dealing with more responsibility on their own and paying for university the most stressful part.

·        Undergraduate students are significantly more likely to find the amount of study the most stressful part of studying, while postgraduate students are significantly more likely to find paying for university the most stressful part.

·        Most likely to feel that 24/7 online study support would help them to combat study stress issues: Females, undergraduates, and UK students. Separately, males are more likely than females to say they haven’t needed study help after class/off campus.

·        Most likely to use 24/7 online study support service from a real person: Females, EU/international students, ages 18 and under (and those who describe their wellbeing as poor, feel university support is poor, and those who have considered dropping out).

·        85% of students feel confident to submit their work knowing they have not plagiarised. Most likely to feel confident: Males, older students, and those who feel supported by their university. Less likely: females, younger students, those who have considered dropping out, and those who describe their wellbeing as poor.

·        Most likely to have their university experience affected a lot by the cost-of-living crisis: females, those aged over 21, and EU/international students. Those who have considered dropping out, have poor support from university or have poor wellbeing, are all significantly more likely to say that the cost-of-living crisis has affected them.

Regional findings:

 ·        Students who live in London are most likely to feel resilient following the pandemic and least likely to have considered dropping out. Those in East London are most likely to say that university has been worse than expected.

·        Students who are based in the North East are most likely to rate their wellbeing as poor, are more likely to be worried about picking up an extra job to pay the bills, and least likely to have spoken to university support services.

·        Students in the North West are most likely to agree that they belong at their university and are most likely to pick their university again.

·        Students in the South East are significantly more likely to agree that they are capable of studying at university level than other regions.

·       Students in the Midlands are more likely to be worried about not being able to afford to do as much socially.

·       Students in Northern Ireland and Yorkshire and the Humber are most likely to have their university experience affected a lot by the cost-of-living crisis.

·       Students in Scotland are significantly more likely to be feeling stressed constantly, more likely than others to have considered quitting their course, and less likely to feel confident about submitting their work than all other regions. They are, however, more likely to have spoken to university support services.

 

Professor Judyth Sachs, Chief Academic Advisor of Studiosity who was previously Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at Macquarie University and Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning and Teaching at the University of Sydney, said:

“There are many different influencers in higher education, from policy makers to government and many more. As educators, we must make it a priority to not lose sight of who our students are. We are not experts in their experience, their lives, their backgrounds, or their views so we must make learning from and about our students a priority in order to support them better. This 2023 data tells us that students who feel supported by their university feel better about their wellbeing and are significantly less likely to consider dropping out. And for some students this might actually be the right thing, but for the ones that it isn’t, although a relatively broad view of the UK student voice, these results are another part of the puzzle that can help us to reflect student expectations and how we can rise to meet them with more support, more inclusive treatment, and care for a student’s personal circumstances.”

Over 20 UK universities benefit from 24/7 personalised on-demand study support through Studiosity. Its formative English-writing feedback service on grammar, spelling, structure and readability, and Connect Live, providing one-to-one help from subject specialists. This personal, routine formative feedback will develop their capacity for higher-order thinking skills that are critical for success in higher education. On 14th June, Studiosity was named Digital Platform of the Year at the Education vInvestor Awards 2023.

Isabelle added: “Whilst there has been a positive shift in the percentage of students who feel comfortable studying alone, 61% say they would use a 24/7 study support service if it were made available to them and two thirds (66%) expressed positive feelings towards a service. With only 45% of students hearing about what academic integrity is, and with ongoing concerns in the sector generally on plagiarism, these are also gaps to be addressed.”

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