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Mental health, loneliness and challenges of postgraduate research students during the COVID-19 pandemic / ISOBEL KING

Swansea University Author: ISOBEL KING

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of university students across the UK as they were forced to transition to remote working due to lockdown and social distancing measures. Much of the existing literature focuses on undergraduate students and ignores, or generalises to, postgraduate resear...

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Published: Swansea 2022
Institution: Swansea University
Degree level: Master of Research
Degree name: MSc by Research
Supervisor: Hudson, Joanne ; Stratton, Gareth
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa59981
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Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of university students across the UK as they were forced to transition to remote working due to lockdown and social distancing measures. Much of the existing literature focuses on undergraduate students and ignores, or generalises to, postgraduate research (PGR) students, a small student population that faces distinct challenges. The pandemic’s impact on PGR students included disruption to data collection, lack of access to on-campus equipment, resources and facilities, funding uncertainty and a minimal in-person contact with academic peers and supervisors, which led to a decline in their mental health and a rise in loneliness. However, most of the available evidence comes from English universities and does not differentiate between Masters and doctoral students’ experiences. Thus, using online questionnaires and interviews, the current mixed methods thesis examined levels of depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness in 72 PGR students studying at one Welsh university, explored the challenges and experiences they faced, and their opinions of the wellbeing support provided by their university during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also compared mental health and loneliness scores between genders and Masters and doctoral students. Study results showed most PGR students were experiencing moderate depression, mild anxiety, low stress and moderate loneliness, however there were no differences between gender or course type. Students experienced an array of challenges but the negative impact of working in isolation, not being able to interact in-person with others and the University’s lack of specific support for PGR students was shared by all participants. University policymakers should tailor informal wellbeing support and communications to the needs of PGR students and review existing PGR-focused wellbeing interventions with PGR students to decide which initiative would be most effective at enabling these students to thrive in the research environment.
Keywords: Mental health, loneliness, university students, COVID-19
College: College of Engineering