Number of university students living with parents drops despite delayed return

The findings came after ministers confirmed all remaining students in England would not be allowed to return to campus until mid-May at the earliest.

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More than four in five students are living at the same address as they were at the start of the autumn term despite the lockdown, a report suggests.

The number of university students in England who said they were living with their parents dropped to just over a third last month, according to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey.

The findings came after the Department for Education (DfE) confirmed remaining students would not be allowed to return to campus until mid-May at the earliest.

Most students in England, apart from those on critical courses, were told not to travel back to term-time accommodation as part of the third national lockdown announced in January.

Students on practical courses, who require specialist equipment and facilities, began returning to face-to-face teaching on March 8, but it is estimated that around half of university students are currently not eligible to return until May 17 at the earliest.

The poll, of more than 1,400 university students in April, suggested 82% are living at the same address as they were at the start of the autumn term, up from 76% in March.

Only 36% said they were living with their parents last month, compared with 41% the month before.

The survey was carried out between April 15 and 22 – days after the Government said all remaining students in England would not be allowed to return to campus until May 17 at the earliest.

The DfE guidance said: “Wherever possible, providers should not ask students to return to their term-time accommodation before they return to in-person teaching and learning.”

Students who need additional mental health support, or who do not have access to appropriate study spaces at home, are allowed to return to term-time accommodation.

The survey suggests more than a fifth (22%) of students reported feeling lonely often or always in April.

This is a fall from 26% in March, but is still far greater than the 6% of the adult population in Great Britain reporting the same over a similar period.

More than half (53%) said their wellbeing and mental health had worsened since the start of the academic year, less than the 63% reported in March.

The average life satisfaction score for all students was 5.8 (out of 10) in April, which was lower than the general population in Great Britain (6.9).

Tim Gibbs, head of the ONS’s Student Covid-19 Insights Study, said: “Students have started to report significant improvements in their life satisfaction and mental health, likely due to the lifting of lockdown restrictions allowing them to socialise with family and friends and spend more time outdoors.

“However, both life satisfaction and mental health and well-being remain significantly lower than the general adult population, with more of the student population reporting they felt lonely often or always than in the adult population in April.

“We will continue to monitor students’ feelings and behaviours as restrictions are lifted.”

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute think tank, said: “These interesting findings show the desire of students to get back to life as normal.

“The results shouldn’t be interpreted as students breaking the rules because there are reasons why students are allowed to be legitimately in residence.

“It’s just a shame the face-to-face learning remains so restricted so many weeks after schools returned to more normal life.”

A Universities UK spokeswoman said: “We know the vast majority of students are now back at their term-time accommodation, and we remain optimistic that students still studying online in England will be able to return for in-person teaching, learning and support from May 17.”

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