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Poorer and BAME students feel left behind during pandemic, says new BPS survey

13 September 2021

Psychology students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly those from BAME groups, feel left behind during the pandemic, according to a new British Psychological Society survey of university staff and students.

Some 1,170 undergraduate and postgraduate and academic staff (368) took part in two BPS online surveys with questions about their experiences of teaching, learning, research and their general wellbeing during the pandemic in 2020.

Students were also asked about the financial impact of the pandemic and staff were asked about the impact on employment, job security, staff/student ratio and funding.

Debra Malpass, BPS Director of Knowledge and Insight, said:

“Covid-19 has caused unprecedented upheaval for universities and many institutions adapted to lockdown and social distancing requirements by moving teaching and research online.

This resulted in huge changes in the teaching and learning relationships between staff and students.

We wanted to investigate the impact on students, as well as academic psychology staff, so the BPS can help respond to the demands and opportunities of the pandemic.”

Key findings from survey:

  • The large majority of staff (76 per cent) and students (70 per cent) reported that since Covid-19, they had experienced a decline in their wellbeing.
  • In open responses staff said economically disadvantaged students, particularly from BAME groups, were disproportionately negatively affected, mostly due to limited access to technology.
  • Staff reported a big increase (97 per cent) in their workload.
  • Students with disabilities and staff with caring responsibilities indicated the most significant decline in wellbeing.
  • Female staff indicated a more significant decline in time to write up and submit research, compared to male colleagues.
  • Staff with caring responsibilities were more likely to experience a significant decline in time to engage in all research related activities, compared to staff without caring responsibilities.

Debra Malpass continued:

“It is clear the BPS has an important role in recognising the current needs of psychology academics and students and taking appropriate actions.

In the short term we need to find ways now to lessen the digital divide for poorer students and those from BAME groups. We must find the right levels of support to improve the wellbeing of all involved in higher education.

We also have an opportunity to champion more diverse course content and increase inclusion across the student and academic community.

We believe it is vital to continue to monitor the situation as government restrictions change and we will carry out a follow up study, in October, based on these findings.”

To take part in the next step of this study please contact [email protected] 


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