General Info

This study collects data on student well-being during the COVID-19 epidemic. Data is collected in 27 European and North-American countries, as well as in South-Africa. Please contact sarah.vandevelde@uantwerpen.be or veerle.buffel@uantwerpen.be for more information.

Concise study protocol:

The COVID-19 outbreak has had a significant impact on the health and well-being of the general population in all countries affected by the epidemic. Nations and national health care systems nonetheless differ significantly in their responses to this COVID-19 outbreak, in terms of (1) the types of protective measures that were implemented, (2) the speed at which these measures were implemented, and (3) the way the general population was informed about these measures and/or penalized in case these protective measures were not respected. We know from research on past epidemics (e.g., the SARS outbreak) that the health and social impact of such an epidemic is severe in the general population (Brooks et al., 2020).

In the current study, we intend to focus on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the student population in higher education. To our surprise, only a handful of studies has examined the impact of previous epidemics on this subpopulation (Wong, Gao, & Tam, 2007). A focus on this subpopulation is nonetheless valuable because this subpopulation is impacted the current COVID-19 outbreak in a unique way as they are confronted with university-level measures on top of the general national measures (social distancing, lockdown, etc.). For example, in Belgium, several measures were implemented at the level of the higher education institution. First, the COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in rapid changes in teaching methods: lectures are no longer taught in real life but are mainly organized online, face-to-face meetings between lecturers and students mostly take place online as well, and many other measures were implemented to guarantee social distancing (e.g., cancellation of internship, the prohibition of qualitative face-to-face interviewing, etc.). In addition, many students moved back home due to the social distancing restrictions or currently live isolated in their student home. Most students were prohibited from performing paid student jobs. On top of this, students went through periods of uncertainty, because measures by the higher education institution were implemented step by step (e.g., how exams will be organized, how the master thesis will be finalized).

Research questions

The current research team hypothesizes that the national and university-level measures significantly impact the well-being of university students. In line with the social stress model (Pearlin, 1989), as well as with the framework of the study “the psychological impact of a quarantine”, that recently published in The Lancet (Brooks et al., 2020), the current study intends to identify how the COVID-19 outbreak relates to students’ well-being. This general research aim is translated into the following research objectives:
 

RO 1: Assess how the living conditions (physical and SES) (1) and workload (2) of higher-education students changed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

RO 2: Assess how the changes in (1) and (2) relate to stress levels (3) among higher education students during the COVID-19 outbreak.

RO 3: Assess how the changes in (1), (2), and (3) relate to well-being, mental health, and health behavior in higher education students during the COVID-19 outbreak.

RO 4: Assess how the associations described in RO 3 are mediated by stressors (fear of infection, boredom, frustration, inadequate information, etc.), social support, and COVID-19 knowledge.

RO 5: Assess the variation in well-being and mental health among higher-education students across participating higher-education institutions and countries.

RO 5: Assess how the cross-institution and cross-country variation in well-being and mental health in higher education students can be related to varying (a) levels of higher-education and (2) national policy contexts.