In October/November 2020, we asked students in higher education how their interest in and ability to engage in learning experiences linked to sustainable development had been influenced by the coronavirus pandemic.
Over 8300 respondents studying at a higher education level across the UK told us:
22% of respondents say they have a lower interest in engaging with formal learning experiences as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising to 30% when respondents consider informal experiences either within or outside the university or students’ union.
Reasons behind lower interest include difficulties associated with online learning, mental health impacts associated with the virus and restrictions put in place to reduce its impact and a lack of availability of opportunities.
However 31% say the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a greater interest in formal learning experiences linked to sustainability and 28%say their interest in informal opportunities at university has increased, and 26% say their interest in engaging with these opportunities in their local communities has increased.
Reasons behind a greater interest include the pandemic highlighting the impact of humanity on the planet and having more time to reflect on issues such as sustainability.
40% of respondents say the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their ability to engage with formal learning experiences linked to sustainability, and this rises to 45% when respondents consider informal experiences either within their university or students’ union and 43% when considering learning experiences in the local community.
Reasons behind a negative impact on the ability to engage include a perception of fewer opportunities being available, and a preference for engaging face-to-face rather than online.
18% say the COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive impact on their ability to engage in formal learning experiences linked to sustainability. 17%and 16% respectively say their ability to engage in informal opportunities at university and in the local community respectively has increased as a result of the pandemic.
Reasons behind a positive impact on the ability to engage include more time to engage as a result of restrictions enforced to tackle the pandemic and online engagement opening up previously unavailable opportunities.