23% of students feel lonely 'most' or 'all of the time'. Credit: Clement Falize via Unsplash

A study from the Higher Education Policy Institute and Advance HE has revealed that 23% of university students said they felt lonely “most” or “all of the time” last year.

With some lectures remaining online and changing coronavirus restrictions placing a strain on socialising, it’s understandable that some students have struggled to settle into university life.

Sarah Cook*, 22, started her Master’s at Nottingham Trent University in September of last year.

Although she has enjoyed her course and was able to make friends, her living situation meant she struggled with loneliness during her time at uni.

“When I was doing my undergrad I never felt lonely, I was always around people. I’d never been on my own so much until I did my Master’s,” she says.

“The flatmates I have now aren’t very sociable – we hardly speak – so I spend a lot of my time alone, watching Netflix in my room,” she adds.

The charity Mind say that loneliness can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health, causing an increased risk of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and stress – all of which can have a negative affect on a student’s university experience and their ability to perform well on their course.

Amanvir Tiwana, 20, is finishing her second year at Nottingham Trent and has also struggled with loneliness.

“I think some students aren’t very open to getting to know each other. Once people have their little group, that’s it. So if you haven’t found your people, you can feel very much like you’re on your own,” says Amanvir.

Nottingham Trent University offers help via its wellbeing team. They state on their website that ‘it’s ok to not be ok’ and encourage students to reach out via a variety of services both online and in-person.

But students aren’t always aware they can access them, or aren’t willing to admit they are lonely and need help.

“I don’t remember being told where I could access support and certainly not for loneliness, so I wasn’t aware I could get help,” says Amanvir.

Sarah adds, “I’m quite a private person and I thought the feelings of loneliness would blow over, so I never felt the need to contact student support. Plus I had really good support from my family and course mates.”

The NTU press office has been contacted for a response.

In other news, the Vice Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, Professor Edward Peck has been announced as Higher Education Student Support Champion by the Department Of Education. Professor Peck has been appointed for the two year unpaid role that will involve strategic approaches to innovations around student engagement for those studying at level 4 and above.

“I am drawing the definition of student support widely at this stage” said Professor Edward Peck.

*some names have been changed