Season 2 Episode 4 – Preparing for September (part 1)

In this month’s episode of Accommodations Matters, sector experts discuss the experience of the incoming 2021 university cohort. In the first of a two-part episode, the conversation covers the preparedness for university following a year of isolation, mental health and well-being issues as well as increased parent involvement. It includes a discussion about our Applicants Survey findings.

 

Our host Darren Ellis, Higher Education Engagement Director at Unite Students, is joined by:

  • Sunday Blake, President at University of Exeter Students' Guild
  • Wayne Templeman, Director of Sixth Form, St Bonaventure's school, East London
  • Simon Jones, Business Development Director, Unite Students
  • Adrian Clark, Student Health & Wellbeing Manager, University of London

Below are some snippets from the conversation:

 

Sunday Blake, President at University of Exeter Students' Guild:

On increased involvement from parents in students’ university life this year:

“I was also in office last year [at the University of Exeter Students’ Guild] and previously, I never heard from a student parent. Now, I get emailed by parents three or four times a week  – and that is not normal. It demonstrates that there is a real level of anxiety amongst parents.”

On current students’ anxiety:

“I am having a lot of conversations with first year students about feeling scared, isolated and alone. I’m letting them know that these are normal feelings to feel and experience [when starting university] – even outside of a pandemic.”

 

Wayne Templeman, Director of Sixth Form, St Bonaventure's school, East London

On the experience of sixth formers over the last year, and the rigour of assessment: 
 

“What this cohort have been through in terms of rigour of assessment is more challenging than a normal series of exams.

“Teachers have been very thorough with assessments  - but that means is that students have had to go through a six or seven week period of very intense and frequent testing. They might be smaller than examinations but the frequency has been really challenging.”

“Students will also have gaps in their knowledge – they might not know all A-level content they should know. We’re trying to fill those gaps but it is something that universities need to be aware of.”

 

Simon Jones, Business Development Director, Unite Students

Unite recently undertook a survey of over 1000 university applicants in 2021, exploring their experience over the last year and feelings about the future. On this:

“Connection, community and contact comes through…Students are feeling less ready and less socially confident, less prepared to make friends – so there is a drive for pre-arrival contact with flatmates [more so than before].”

“Students have missed out on rites of passage moments…and taking first steps to adult life and independence. This means students may not have explored and found all their boundaries [around things like travelling alone, alcohol etc] – this could all manifest come autumn.”

 

Adrian Clark, Student Health & Wellbeing Manager, University of London

Unite recently undertook a survey of over 1000 university applicants in 2021. On this:

“[According to Unite Students’s recent Applicants survey] Students are feeling less ready and well informed [about coming to university].

“We need to think about what we can do to provide structured opportunities for students to meet each other and really get to know each other - to work through this together.”

“I wonder if the impact [of the pandemic] has been greater on confidence and self-esteem than it has on actual learning and ability to perform.”

 

Listen to the full episode here:

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