University-life-during-COVID-banner

Student reviews tell the story of 2020… and it’s not as bad as you might think!

We’ve seen the images of “Help us, send beer” posted up on university hall windows and we’ve probably all tried to imagine what it’s been like to be a student at university through the pandemic. Prospective students, providers and policy makers can look on and guess, but what has it really been like for students at university this year?

We drilled into our student review data to find out how students are experiencing and making sense of this particular time at university. We analysed that data over a 16-month time frame, starting from the first semester of 2019. This gives us at least a full semester of data before the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK and subsequent lockdown took place. We are then able to compare that against at least a full semester of what we are calling university life during COVID time period.

An in-depth analysis of three critical areas of university life is given here:

University Teaching Delivery 20-21

Based on 16,471 individual reviews
Figure 1. Average Review Scores from September 2019 to December 2020

Figure 1 above gives the average review scores for these three areas from September 2019 to December 2020. Our review data clearly shows three phases in this 16-month timeframe:

1. September 2019- March 2020: Pre-Covid
2. April – May 2020: Campus closures and move to online learning
3. June 2020 – December 2020: During Covid

*** HEALTH WARNING: There is no single source that captures the ‘student voice’. There are 2.6 million students studying in the UK and we do not claim to represent all of those experiences. Every student and their experience is different. Some universities pulled out all the stops to welcome students and make them feel at home, some didn’t. Some courses have transitioned to online learning really well, some haven’t. Some accommodation providers have gone above and beyond to support students, some haven’t. Some students found it easier to adapt to all the changes than others. What we are attempting to do with the following analysis is give an overview of the trends in student review scores across the UK. ***

An initial glance at this data shows a sharp dip in average review scores across all three areas in April 2020. This gives us a clear indication that immediately following the first national lockdown and subsequent campus closures, students’ satisfaction was impacted. We have heard a plethora of anecdotal stories of widespread confusion and stress as students tried to make it back home, leaving behind their possessions and not knowing what was going to happen next.

However, this initial dip in April was subsequently followed by a rebound in average review scores in May 2020. This indicates that in a relatively short time frame, students were beginning to adjust to their new normal. As online teaching and learning became more familiar and more information began to emerge from universities about teaching, assessments and safety nets, as well as clarity around cost and access to accommodation, students responded accordingly.

What the data also shows us is that outside of this initial drop and rebound in satisfaction, the pre-COVID and university life during COVID scores are fairly consistent. In fact there is no statistically significant difference in average review scores during these two time periods. The review data suggests that students have been fully aware of the impact of COVID on day-to-day life and have been able to adjust their expectations of university life accordingly.

Somewhat surprisingly, we have seen an increase in average satisfaction in some areas in the university life during COVID time period. When we drill into the factors that make up these three review areas, we can see that things like ‘Personal Tutor’ saw a 2.6% increase in satisfaction between these two time periods. ‘Value for money’ and ‘Cleaning’ of accommodation saw just over a 5.8% increase in ratings. This possibly reflects a higher proportion of time spent in accommodation last semester as social restrictions limited movement, as well as the efforts made by accommodation providers to ensure spaces were kept clean.

University Teaching Delivery 20-21

Across all three review areas, accommodation was the most heavily impacted by university closures in April 2020. Arguably, accommodation provision was one of the areas that was more complex to resolve during the initial lockdown period. Most universities were able to move learning online relatively quickly. Students also have a much more long term relationship with their university and course, and possibly made the assumption that measures would be put in place to support them. The relationship with a housing provider is conceivably quite different. It took slightly longer for issues around rent rebates and the ability to return to collect possessions to be worked out and communicated. Conversely, accommodation has possibly fared the best in the university life during COVID time period, with all but one (location, which is inflexible) of the review areas increasing by between 2.01 – 5.89% from the pre-COVID levels.

University Teaching Delivery 20-21

So has university life really been as bad as some quarters have reported? It is hard to argue that lots of students haven’t been significantly impacted by the COVID experience. Many are reporting increased strain on their mental health as well as significant financial hardship. The online teaching experience isn’t a substitute for face-to-face interaction, and the full university experience hasn’t been possible with the kinds of social restrictions students have faced since the end of March 2020.

University Teaching Delivery 20-21

Having said all of that, this data does show that students have, and are able to, make adjustments to their expectations given the context, and many are, in fact, appreciative of the efforts that universities and accommodation providers have made to give them at least some semblance of a university experience. What is most notable from our review comments is students noticing when people go out of their way to help them. That might be tutors doing additional check-ins, a property team supporting them during self-isolation or universities coming up with creative social events.

Do these findings match your experience? Let us know by reviewing your course, accommodation and university here.

To find out more continue reading the detailed analysis on university, courses and accommodation below.


 

1. University Review Data

The graph below shows the breakdown of the university review data across the five review categories: campus/facilities, clubs and societies, Students’ Union, careers service and wifi/internet.

null

Based on 5,635 reviews
Figure 2. University Review Scores from September 2019 to December 2020

As above, the data shows a dip in review scores in April and a similar rebound in May. The red line gives the mean review score for the two time periods: 3.85 for Sept 19 – Mar 20 and 3.92 for Jun 20 – Dec 20. It is important to note that there is no statistically significant difference in these two mean values. This indicates that, based on our review scores, students are reporting their university experience during COVID-19 has not been significantly worse than in previous years.

Overall, student satisfaction with semester one in the 2020-21 academic year is broadly the same as it was in the 2019-20 academic year, prior to the emergence of the pandemic. As discussed above, this is likely due to students’ ability to adapt to the current context and make adjustments to their expectations.

null

Correlation between individual review categories and overall review averages is as follows:
null

 

2. Course Review Data

The graph below shows the breakdown of the courses review data across the five review categories: value for money, teaching quality, personal tutor, course content and job prospects.

null

Based on 4,170 reviews
Figure 3. Course Review Scores from September 2019 to December 2020

Following a similar pattern to the previous data, the graph shows a dip in review scores in April and a similar rebound in May. The red line gives the mean review score for the two time periods: 3.90 for Sept 19 – Mar 20 and 3.96 for Jun 20 – Dec 20. As before, there is no statistically significant difference in these two mean values. This indicates that, based on our review scores, students are reporting their course experience during COVID-19 has not been significantly worse than in previous years. We can see that review scores for Personal Tutor are marginally higher in the university life during COVID time period. It is also notable that value for money hasn’t been significantly impacted. There is a lot of concern around course fees and perceptions around paying for an experience which hasn’t been fully delivered. Again, this data suggests students have been able to adjust their expectations and have a more nuanced understanding of the cost of university and what their fees are spent on.

null

Correlation between individual review categories and overall review averages is as follows:
null

 

3. Accommodation Review Data

The graph below shows the breakdown of the accommodation review data across the six review categories: value for money, location, cleaning, social spaces, social experience and internet/wifi.

null

Based on 6,666 reviews
Figure 4. Accommodation Review Scores from September 2019 to December 2020

Following a similar pattern to the previous data, the graph shows a dip in review scores in April and a similar rebound in May. The red line gives the mean review score for the two time periods: 3.79 for Sept 19 – Mar 20 and 3.92 for Jun 20 – Dec 20. As before, there is no statistically significant difference in these two mean values. This indicates that, based on our review scores, students are reporting their accommodation experience during COVID-19 has not been significantly worse than in previous years. We can see that review scores for Value for Money and Cleanliness are marginally higher in the university life during COVID time period. There could be several reasons for this but we know that students are spending more time in their accommodation this semester and therefore may be valuing it more highly as an important space to live, work, study and socialise in. We also know that cleanliness, particularly of shared spaces, is of utmost importance in the current climate. It is therefore encouraging to see students reporting that accommodation providers really are fulfilling their commitments to cleanliness and to create safe spaces.

null

Correlation between individual review categories and overall review averages is as follows:
null

If you’re interested in finding out more about our review data please contact us at support@studentcrowd.com.

Keep reading...

Join StudentCrowd for Unlimited Access, to Write Reviews and Help Students.

We'll send you an email so that you can verify your free account.

By joining you agree to our T's and C's. We're committed to protecting your privacy.
Thanks for the feedback!
StudentCrowd is free to use, but in order to report, vote, and leave reviews, you need to create a free account.