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How UK student life has been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic

Shopping bags lined up in a row

One of our key values here at Student Beans is to listen to the needs of our vast community of student users, and this has become more important than ever during the current global crisis, the coronavirus pandemic. Each month we survey our student database as part of our Student Beans Insiders program and this month we used this opportunity to understand the impact of COVID-19 on UK student life, and what we and our brand partners can do to support them through this challenging time.


We put our most frequently asked questions to a panel of over 1200 UK students aged 16-24, and here’s what we found out…

How has the pandemic affected where university students are currently living?

82% of students are now in their family home, 16% in private accommodation and only 2% in student accommodation managed by their uni. Of those who were previously staying in student accommodation, 91% have now moved to their family home, and 61% of those who were in private accommodation have done the same.

How has the pandemic affected students’ education?

68% of students have had their classes moved online, 49% have had exams cancelled, and 18% have had classes cancelled as they couldn’t be moved online. Only 7% said their education hadn’t been affected in any of these ways.

A uni student studying alone

How will the pandemic affect the number of new students starting university in autumn 2020?

Of the students who were originally planning to start uni this year, 88% are still intending to do so.

Will there be less international students at universities in the new academic year?

This will depend on travel restrictions, so we can’t give a definitive answer at this stage. However, of the international students who were planning to continue their studies in the UK in autumn 2020, 97% are still planning to do so.

What are students looking forward to post-lockdown?

The things students are most looking forward to are seeing friends/family (91%), going out for dinner (67%), going out shopping (65%), going on holiday (63%) and going to events such as music, theatre and sports (62%). Meanwhile, 58% are looking forward to continuing with their education, 49% returning to work/getting a job, 46% going on nights out and 43% taking part in sports/going to the gym.

Burgers all round for a group of four young people.

How has the pandemic affected their online shopping habits?

45% of students are shopping online more than usual, 36% the same amount as usual, and only 16% are shopping online less. 76% have looked for a discount on an online purchase, 56% have bought something online that they normally would have bought in-store, 50% have bought from an online store they hadn’t bought from before, and 45% have researched things they want to buy in the future.

How do students feel about brands sending marketing emails during the pandemic?

Overall they are very positive, with only 11% saying this is inappropriate. 52% are sympathetic to the brands, as they understand the economic impact of the crisis. 48% say they are happy to receive emails as they want to support the brands they like, while 22% say the emails help to keep them entertained during lockdown.

How do students feel about brands doing good for the community during the crisis?

Their view of this is overwhelmingly positive, with only 1% saying they shouldn’t get involved. 63% say it makes them think more highly of the brand, and 27% say it makes them want to buy from them. However, it’s important to ensure any community actions are truly impactful and meaningful, as 44% say they’re only impressed if they feel it’s sincere.

Studying solo.

How are students coping with the crisis emotionally?

Students are very conscious of the impact of the pandemic on their mental health. 60% say it has made them anxious or depressed. When asked how they were feeling during lockdown, 43% said bored, 42% stressed, and 23% worried. Therefore, it’s vital for brands who have a Gen Z audience to be sensitive and supportive during this time.

Make sure to bookmark this page as we’ll be keeping it updated with new insights from our student community as the situation progresses. Want to find out more about how your brand can support and engage student consumers during the crisis? Get in touch with us today to discuss your needs.

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