A blended approach to teaching at university campuses from September 2020 seems to be the norm (for now), with students and universities facing new challenges in this environment. Students who under normal circumstances wouldn’t be at risk, may now experience financial, mental health or virtual learning hurdles which will create an unprecedented demand for university support.
An NUS survey of higher and further education students found that up to 85% of working students may need additional financial support due to income loss under lockdown. The same survey highlighted harm to wellbeing with 91% of students responding that they are worried about a family member and 63% sharing that they are worried for themselves.
Pre-pandemic, universities already struggled with the resources to keep pace with yearly increases in mental health needs. According to a 2019 data analysis by ex-health minister Sir Norman Lamb, the average wait time was 7.5 weeks for students seeking mental health support. Coronavirus creates additional bottlenecks as mental health professionals try to accommodate a rush of demand while still adapting their services to meet social-distancing rules.
Be it demand for IT, financial, mental health or academic services, active communication with students as they search for resources and wait for service appointments will be critical to student engagement and progression. Universities that can rapidly scale targeted student engagement will be the best positioned to mitigate the negative impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and fulfil their long-term student success goals.