1. What this study is about

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is carrying out this important pilot study on students’ experiences in higher education settings in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Public Health England (PHE) and the Department for Education (DfE). This study will ask you questions about your situation and experiences at university during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and how you have been affected by it.

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2. Why you should take part

You have the unique opportunity to tell us about your experiences. We want to accurately reflect your experience at university during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Your responses will provide us with information not available from any other sources. You will be helping scientific advisers and government policymakers to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on your university experience. We are giving you the choice to make a difference.

Your response is extremely important to make sure your voice counts in producing reliable statistics for decision-making. For us to get an accurate picture of the current university experience, it is vital that we hear from as many people as possible, from all university degrees.

Do not miss your chance to have your say.

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3. What you will be asked

The study will cover a range of topics, including:

  • information about you,
  • your health and wellbeing
  • the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on your university life
  • the coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance

The questions we ask can be based on both facts and opinions.

There are no difficult questions, and you do not need any specialist knowledge to take part. There are no right or wrong answers – your honest responses are vital for us to produce reliable statistics about your university experience.

We respect your right to a private life – the information you provide in this study will not be used to identify you in any way.

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4. Taking part is important

Answering the questions is voluntary. If you do not want to answer some or any of the questions, you do not have to. Please answer as many questions as you can, to ensure that your experiences and circumstances are counted.

With your help we will build a picture of student experience during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we need to talk to university students like you.

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5. What will we do with your answers

Your personal information will remain confidential.

The details you provide will be combined with those of everyone else taking part so we can produce statistics. Any data we publish will never identify you.

We do not sell on your data and you will not receive junk mail or marketing calls as a result of taking part in the study. Your university will not have access to any details you provide in the study.

If you want to know more, please see the section about our commitment to protecting your data.

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6. What will happen next

You should have received an email from your university inviting you to take part and introducing the study.

Your email will include all the instructions you need – this study is available for you to complete at any time until the closing date stated in your email.

We design our studies with you in mind and keep them as short as possible. We only collect the information we need to better understand our society. Your response is really important to us.

When ready

  1. Follow the link provided in your email to access the study on your computer, smartphone or tablet.
  2. Complete the study.
  3. Click ‘Finish survey’.
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7. Who carries out the study

This study is being carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Public Health England (PHE) and the Department for Education (DfE). The ONS are the country’s largest producer of statistics.

We are:

  • independent, unbiased and impartial: we are separate from other organisations and do not allow anything to influence the statistics we publish;
  • the only organisation that produces official statistics as a primary role: we have no additional interest in the information we collect;
  • only interested in society as a whole, and not you as an individual: statistics represent groups of people; we remove your personal details as we are not interested in singling you out.

We are not:

  • a commercial or market research organisation: we do not work for profit and will not try to sell you anything;
  • associated with any political parties: we produce official statistics, no matter who the Prime Minister or political party in government is;
  • going to sell on your data under any circumstances: we value your involvement in our studies and do not profit from your data; you will not receive any “junk mail” as a result of taking part;
  • monitoring you, as the data you give are only used for producing statistics: we will not use your information to contact you about other matters such as your tax, income or benefits, and we will not provide your information to anyone else for them to do so either.

Read more about what we do at the ONS.

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8. Questions about taking part

Can I take a break part way through?

We would advise you to start the survey when you have time to complete it. It will only take between 10-15 min of your time. Unfortunately, the survey design currently does not allow questionnaires to be saved partway through and to be finished at a later point. If you were to close your browser window before completing and submitting the survey, you will not be able to re-enter the study at the point you left and will need to start over again.

How to get an invite if you do not receive one?

To ensure the study is valid, only those invited to participate in the study will have received an email invitation with a link to the study. Students preselected to take part in this study cannot be replaced with others.

When do I need to complete the study by?

You should aim to complete the study by the date indicated on your invitation email.

Can I take part in the study in another way other than online?

Unfortunately, this study is only available online.

Can I complete the study in another language?

Currently, the study is only available in English.

I have completed the online study, but I want to change my answers; what do I do?

If you have submitted your response but would like to change your answers, please email student.insights.feedback@ons.gov.uk to let us know.

I have lost my invitation email with the link needed to complete the study online. Can I have this again?

If you have lost the invitation email with the link needed to complete the study, please contact student.insights.feedback@ons.gov.uk.

How can I tell whether my answers have been successfully submitted?

When you complete the study, you will reach a page thanking you for taking part. This means that you have successfully submitted your answers.

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9. Can I see the results

The results from this study will be used by scientific advisers, government bodies and policymakers who are looking at the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The results are likely to be published in a report later this year.

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10. Confidentiality and data protection

How we have selected you

Your university was amongst those selected for this study. All third and later year undergraduate students enrolled for the current term at your university have been invited to participate.

You have been selected to take part in this study, we cannot ask another individual to take your place as this would affect how representative our study is.

How your university is involved in the study

Your university has agreed to send you the invitation email to the study on behalf of the ONS. Therefore, the ONS does not have access to your email address. This is the only involvement your university has with this study.

We will not share any information you provide in the study with your university.

If you have any queries or concerns, please contact us at student.insights.feedback@ons.gov.uk.

How we will use the information you provide

Your personal information will remain confidential.

The details you provide will be combined with those of everyone else taking part so we can produce statistics. Any data we publish will never identify you or your household.

The ONS will use your data for statistical purposes only. We will only share statistical outputs of the data with our stakeholders (DHSC, PHE and DfE) following the Code of Practice for Statistics. Any outputs we share with our stakeholders will not be able to identify you.

We do not sell on your data, and you will not receive junk mail or marketing calls as a result of taking part in one of our studies.

The information you provide will not identify you or your household and will be deleted upon completion of the project in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The precautions for data protection and confidentiality we have taken

We take our responsibilities to keep your personal information secure very seriously. As such, we take every reasonable precaution to ensure your information is protected from loss, theft or misuse. These precautions include appropriate physical security of our offices, controlled access to computer systems, and use of secure, encrypted internet connections when collecting personal information.

The ONS adheres to the Code of Practice for Statistics and the Data Protection Act 2018 and processes all personal information with respect, keeping it secure and confidential. Any personal data collected are processed in systems that have been accredited by the ONS, designed to uphold the security of the data and that are subject to regular assessment. Once the study is completed, ONS will destroy all personal data securely.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is using a third party, SmartSurvey, to carry out the data collection aspects of this online study. However, the ONS will receive all data collected and remain in control of all responses given by all study participants.

Will I be identifiable in the results?

No, the information you submit will be treated as confidential as directed by the Code of Practice for Statistics. Any statistics or results produced will not identify you.

Will anyone else see my answers?

We would advise you to complete the study in private. Your responses will not be visible to your university or other students. Once you have submitted your study, your answers cannot be accessed through the questionnaire anymore.


SmartSurvey is the service provider used to host this study online. SmartSurvey uses cookies on their website. Cookies are bits of data they store on the device you use to access the SmartSurvey website and services so they can recognise repeat visitors. Each cookie expires after a certain period of time, depending on what it is used it for.

For more information on SmartSurvey's Cookie Policy, please see the following link https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/how-we-use-cookies.

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11. The ONS’s responsibility to the public

You can read about the commitments the Office for National Statistics (ONS) makes to those taking part in its studies in our ONS respondent charter for surveys of households and individuals.

If you have a question about how we process your personal data or want to find out more about your rights under data protection legislation, please see our data protection page.

At the ONS, we take seriously our responsibility to the public. It is our policy that we will tell the appropriate authority if we believe there is a serious risk to someone’s safety.

We would appreciate your suggestions on how we can improve any of our studies. It would also be great to hear from you if you are happy with the service you have received. You can email us at student.insights.feedback@ons.gov.uk.

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12. Finding further help and support

If you have any queries or concerns about the study, please email us at Covid.Insights.Study@ons.gov.uk

Useful links

Department of Health and Social Care
Department for Education
Public Health England
Information Commissioners Office

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