Do you think you belong at university? Has COVID-19 changed this?

Aimee Poole

Psychology and Mathematics

4th

Year of study:

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Abstract

Bio

Do you think you belong at university? Has COVID-19 changed this?

When thinking about the student experience one of the most prevalent aspects is how deeply a student feels they are part of their university. Pre-pandemic research consistently stated that students with a higher sense of belonging to their university report better mental wellbeing. With student mental health in crisis, there has been an influx of interventions that target sense of belonging to improve student mental health. Additionally, although it is not yet fully known how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed things, research is showing a marked decline in students' mental wellbeing during the pandemic.

This study investigates students’ mental health by studying the relationship between the sense of belonging to a university and COVID-19 concern and the impact they each had on mental health. An online questionnaire measuring sense of belonging to university, COVID-19 concern, and mental health was self-administered by UK undergraduate students during the Omicron variant wave in the UK. These scores were analysed to investigate how sense of belonging and COVID-19 concern can predict different mental health conditions.

Results suggest that there is no relationship between COVID-19 concern and sense of belonging. It was also found that those with higher COVID-19 concern and a lower sense of belonging to university have worsened mental health. These findings will be crucial for universities, enhancing the development of their current student support mechanisms as well as informing their responses to future pandemics.

From a young age numbers and statistics have always intrigued me. As I grew older I found myself questioning more about the world and in particular the human mind. to combine my love of facts and fascination of the unknown I decided to move to Glasgow in 2018 to undertake a joint honours degree in mathematics and psychology.

Now in my final year as an undergraduate, I have witnessed first-hand the effects that COVID-19 had on the student experience at a time when the mental health crisis is prevalent in education systems. This has compelled me to reflect on how psychology may be able to explain the changes in mental wellbeing of students. Utilising statistics and quantitative methodology I have conducted research into how student mental health is impacted by university belonging and the COVID-19 as part of my undergraduate dissertation.