COVID-19 International Student Well-Being Survey

Date: 23 April 2020

Introduction: The COVID-19 outbreak has had a huge impact on student life in various countries. With this study, we wants to understand the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on student life.

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).

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