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Chapter 4: Looking Deeper Part 2 – The enduring impact of COVID-19

The research journey so far

In the National Report 2021, Chapter 4 looked at the impact of COVID-19 on first year undergraduate students. This was deemed a cohort of particular interest as, for most of these students, this would have been their first and only experience in higher education.

Photograph of Janice Lau presenting at the Practitioners Forum

That chapter focused on two key cohorts:

  • 2021: First year undergraduate respondents in the 2021 survey.
  • Baseline: First year undergraduate respondents over the previous three fieldwork years the survey was conducted (2018, 2019, 2020)[1] in order to create a baseline for comparison with the results for 2021. In total, there are 59,984 first year undergraduate responses to the survey over these years, which represents a significant evidence base.

The National Report 2021 demonstrated clearly that the student experience was affected by the changes to the traditional on-campus higher education mode necessitated by COVID-19. In 2021, Chapter 4 Looking Deeper focused on the factors deemed by the statistical analyses to have been most affected by necessitated changes to the traditional on-campus higher education model. These were:

  • Collaborative Learning
  • Student-Faculty Interaction
  • Quality of Interactions
  • Supportive Environment

These indicators all had medium, large, or very large effect sizes (see Table 4.2.1 below). Although statistically significant differences were observed, the effect size was small or negligible for Higher Order Learning, Reflective and Integrative Learning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Effective Teaching Practices.


[1] The data pools together three cross-sectional fieldwork years. Hence, the results for 2018-2020 are pooled averages across three fieldwork years. Furthermore, the results are weighted in each fieldwork year by gender, mode of study, and cohort. The results in this chapter can be interpreted as weighted pooled averages.