Covid impact broadens accommodation considerations

Steve Lumley·19 August 2020·5 min read
Covid impact broadens accommodation considerations

Students have considered a broader range of accommodation choices as a result of Coronavirus. In a recent survey undertaken by 40% of respondents had considered living in a houseshare rather than a hall. 22% a flat or apartment and 21% a studio room in a hall, as methods of reducing contact with others.

The choice of accommodation was just one factor students have evaluated prior to returning to university this September, with just over1/3 rd considering deferring their studies for a year as the majority of students (59%) are not anticipating a return to normality on campus until 2021.

Blended learning as standard

71% of students will experience blended learning, combining online teaching styles with some face to face learning. However, for some there remains a degree of uncertainty with just under ¼ of respondents still not sure what to expect. Despite this uncertainty most students feel that their university has been good at keeping then up to date, with 70% agreeing that communication had been good.

Financial and practical concerns

On balance students are deferring judgement about this experience with only 22% definitively unhappy with the teaching proposals from their University. The biggest concerns these students have is around value for money, but some offer practical concerns, such as poor quality wifi in some shared housing disrupting online learning. It is noteworthy that 10% of respondents to the survey did not have the necessary equipment to participate in online learning.

Concerns about the social experience

As might be anticipated, students are concerned about the social experience when they return to university. However, it is not just the absence of what may be considered the traditional social experience involving bars and clubs that is of concern.

Students are worried about missing the day to day contact with their peers if there are relatively few contact hours on campus. They also worry about missing the social interaction that being an active member of clubs and societies brings. Some students even pointed out simple changes such as walking to campus rather than using public transport would reduce social interaction with their peers.

In general students displayed a lack of enthusiasm for online social activity, with just 32% indicating that this type of event would be considered.

Financial Concerns

Just over half of the students in the survey are concerned that their financial situation will be weakened. This is mainly due to the loss of part time work or the perception that this will be harder to come by when they return in the autumn. In some cases students would also be receiving reduced support from their parents and families during the term time. A significant minority of students also expressed concern about the financial position of their University, following the earlier impact of Covid 19.

Second wave

If a second wave of Coronavirus forced University closure almost half of students ( 48%) would prefer to stay in their term time accommodation and 1/3rd would look to return home (to family and friends) and socially isolate. This is broadly similar to the number of students (37%) that feel that Coronavirus is a health risk to them personally, with the majority of those responding not feeling directly threatened by the virus.

Supporting students

In terms of support to address these challenges trends emerge around a few themes. Financial support either through reduced tuition fees or flexibility with accommodation costs or increased maintenance loans funding to address financial shortfalls. Outside of these financial requirements, students are looking for more regular communication from their University, plus more flexibility over teaching styles. In particular students would like to be able to book individual teaching time with a tutor to make up for lost time on campus.