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This QAA Collaborative Enhancement Project between University of Portsmouth, Manchester Metropolitan University, Solent University and The University of Nottingham gathered evidence from undergraduate students of their perceptions of the quality of learning and teaching in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on how these perceptions differ by ethnicity.

Data was gathered through a survey questionnaire and follow-up focus groups from students representing three subject areas: Health Sciences, Business Studies and Other Sciences, and from six different ethnic categories. The results from the project highlight the importance of granularity of analysis needed to make informed actions to support students from different ethnic and disciplinary contexts.

Overall, findings suggest importance of wellbeing and sense of belonging are highly valued by the student community. Feeling like a member of a university community, making university friends, and receiving adequate support for mental wellbeing were deemed important/very important by students. From a learning perspective, recordings of teaching materials were thought to have been valuable by the majority of students from each ethnicity group; however, students perceived that formal tasks and activities with other students contributed less to their experience.

Experience of the past year and preferences varied considerably by ethnicity, as did experience of engagement - online and on-campus. From a discipline perspective, Health Sciences students had a better experience of 2020-21 than students from Other Sciences and Business Studies. Health Sciences students also had the greatest proportion who would prefer online teaching. However, for all three subject areas, face-to-face studying is the preferred mode. Detailed findings and set of recommendations can be accessed via the reports and executive summary on the project website.

While our results have provided fertile ground for a number of recommendations, our findings have been thought-provoking; they have raised more questions and identified further areas for research and exploration. Our hope is that by presenting our findings and highlighting some of the more surprising results, other institutions will realise the value of this type of research, and they will be encouraged to conduct similar research of their own.


find out more about the project in our video

Further information about the project including the full report, executive summary and reflections from members of the research team can be found on the project website. You can also read a student evaluation of the project. The survey tool used is available as a Word document and PDF in the QAA Membership Resources Site and can be adapted and used by QAA Members in their own research.

Project lead:

University of Portsmouth

Project partners:

Manchester Metropolitan University, Solent University and the University of Nottingham

Other Collaborative Enhancement Projects

QAA supports a number of projects every year, covering a range of topics and interest areas. Each is led by a QAA Member, working in collaboration with other members institutions. You can find more information on all projects, and access resources and outputs, on our website.