Student Learning Experiences and Well-Being during the COVID-19 Pandemic at the University of Free State




COVID-19 pandemic, student experience, student wellbeing, remote learning, student anxiety


South African universities were closed nationally during the COVID-19 pandemic. On-campus learning was suspended, and on-campus student accommodation was closed from March 2020, with phased returns to campus continuing until early 2022. The study intended to identify categories of students whose learning and well-being were most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and provide empirical evidence to inform initiatives to support these students better. An online cross-sectional survey completed by 1 562 respondents studying at a South African university explored students’ experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on students’ learning and well-being, subjective social status, sense of coherence, and future anxiety. Multivariable regression models showed younger age (18 to 21 years), female gender, low subjective social status, and isiZulu and English home language were significantly associated with lower well-being. Regression analysis also showed a significant association between the dimensions of manageability and meaningfulness of sense of coherence and well-being and that high levels of future anxiety were associated with lower well-being. Half of the respondents (49.6%) reported that the pandemic has negatively impacted their overall student experience. However, more than half (51.2%) prefer online to face-to-face learning and found it less time-consuming (63.5%). The results could assist universities in introducing appropriate support services targeting young female students with low subjective social status to support the mental health and well-being of those most affected by the pandemic


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How to Cite

Pillay, Semira, Lise Kriel, and Frank Magaya. “Student Learning Experiences and Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic at the University of Free State”. Progressio, 26 pages.



Themed Section 1
Received 2023-07-27
Accepted 2023-12-05
Published 2024-04-24