Almost half of students who went out met friends or family indoors

Nearly half of university students who have gone out said they met up with people they do not live with indoors, potentially breaching lockdown rules, new data has shown.

Experimental figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published on Monday, found 92% of 1,129 students at English universities surveyed between May 4 and 12 said they had left their home or accommodation for any reason in the past seven days.

Of those who had left the house in the previous seven days, 47% said they had met up with friends or family that they do not live with indoors.

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This was more than double the 21% who reported the same in March, the ONS said.

The survey was carried out before May 17, when lockdown rules in England were relaxed to allow people to meet indoors in groups of six or two households, but people could still meet their support bubbles indoors.

The ONS data also showed 56% of students who were in higher education prior to the coronavirus pandemic reported the lack of face-to-face learning had a “major or moderate” impact on the quality of their course.

Some 49% said the pandemic had a “major or significant” impact on their academic performance.

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Average life satisfaction scores among students remained stable at 5.8 out of 10 in May but stayed “significantly lower” than the adult population in Great Britain at 7, the ONS said.

The proportion of students reporting a worsening in their mental health and wellbeing since the start of the autumn term 2020 also remained stable at 51% in May 2021, the ONS said.

This is down from a peak of 68% of all students reporting the same in January.

Tim Gibbs, public services analysis team at the ONS, said: “Like many of us, with the loosening of restrictions students have begun to meet others and socialise.

“However, over half still report their mental health has suffered since autumn 2020 and they continue to have lower life satisfaction than the adult population.

“Although universities have undoubtedly tried to accommodate students in the face of restrictions, we found that nearly half of students reported the pandemic has significantly impacted their academic performance.

“It is important we continue to monitor the feelings and behaviours of students as restrictions are eased and the university experience returns to some normality.”