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Attending university still depends on family support

24 May 2022
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The Vives Network of Universities presented the results of the report Via Universitària: Accés, condicions d’aprenentatge, expectatives i retorns dels estudis universitaris (2020-2022), which included the participation of some 50,000 students from 20 universities in Catalonia, Valencia, Balearic Islands and Andorra. In this third edition, the impact of the healthcare crisis on students was also analysed.

Presentacio Informe Via Universitaria 2022

-Only 1 out of every 10 students comes from a low income family.

-There are more women at university (64%), but they are still a minority in engineering and science degrees.

-One out of every four students declare having suffered from anxiety in the 12 more difficults months of the pandemic.

 The study on attending university, learning conditions, expectations and returning to classes, entitled Via Universitària: Accés, condicions d’aprenentatge, expectatives i retorns dels estudis universitaris (2020-2022)analyses students' living conditions, ways of studying, their relation with the university, cultural habits, economic determinants, as well as their expectations, values and beliefs regarding higher education.

This third edition also includes, for the first time, the effects of the pandemic on university studies. The report was presented on Tuesday 24 May at the University of Barcelona by the scientific and technical directors of the study.

The University slows down its advance towards equity

Only 1 out of every 10 students comed from a low income household, according to the Via Universitària (2020-2022) report. The predominant social class continues to be families with high incomes: 58.5% among undergraduate students and 60.9 % in the case of those enrolled in master's degrees. The results of the report show that lower class families are the elast represented: only 9.1 % of students. The university system is still far from reaching equity and much has yet to be done to reach this objective.

When analysed by areas of knowledge, students from families with lower educational levels are found more in the Social Sciences and Law (22.5 %) and Humanities (21.3 %) sectors, and less in the Engineering (15.6 %), Sciences (13.7 %) or Mixed Degrees (10.3 %) sector.

 Family support, essential when studying at university

The data presented by the Vives Network show that the parents of students are their main financial supporters. Thus, parents are the ones who pay for the majority of items related to university studies (54% of costs). This data is directly related with housing, in which 6 out of every 10 students live with the families while they study at university. The results of the report demonstrate that entering university is not equivalent to leaving the family home.

Academic programmes reproduce gender inequalities

With regard to gender, the majority of university students are women (64 %), but they continue to be a minority in the Engineering (36.5 %) and Experimental Sciences and Mathematics (39.3 %) degrees. Women focus more on degrees related to health and welfare, art and education, while men tend to enrol in degrees related to areas of power and decision-making. It is worth highlighting that precisely the more male-dominated fields are the ones with more career opportunities, social prestige and higher salaries.

The results of the report also show that women students make more effort to meet and exceed academic expectations, particularly in male-dominated areas in which they are a minority. They are more disciplined and constant in their studies. The analysis in terms of time gaps reveals that women spend more time on house chores and caring for family members, while men spend more time on personal hobbies and social life.

One out of every four students suffered anxiety during the toughest 12 months of the pandemic

For the first time, the report included questions related to mental health and emotional well-being. According to the definitions of the European Health Interview Survey, students were asked if they had suffered from chronic stress or any other mental health problem. A total of 22.8% of university students declare having suffered from anxiety and 26.4% from depression in some point in time. This explains how the pandemic has notably affected the mental health of students, particularly during the 2020-2021 period.

The report also points to the fact that traditional teaching methods are considered less relevant, while more active and innovative methodologies have grown in presence. With relation to distance learning, 4 out of every 10 students positively value the efforts made by universities in face of the pandemic, and the work put in by lecturers.

Differences between classroom-based and online students consolidated

Another of the trends confirmed in this third edition of the study is related to the general profile of students. Thus, students attending classes at university continue mainly to have a conventional profile: young students straight out of secondary education, and with no responsibilities family-wise. In contrast, online students expand in profile to include older students entering through other channels and with professional and family obligations. Therefore, virtual universities also serve as a second chance for more complex profiles and backgrounds.

Via Universitària: the most important study on students from the Pyrennees-Mediterranean region

The objective of the Via Universitària programme is to discover the profile of a university student, their academic conditions, satisfaction with classes and relation to the university. The study conducted by the Vives Network gathers three different types of student data: equity in accessing and life during their higher education experience; transformation of student's reality as a result of an ever larger social environment; and the quality of teaching and learning methodologies. In this sense, the Via Universitària report can be compared with the results of the EUROSTUDENT report, which collects the same type of data from 28 European countries.

The third edition of the Via Universitària report was organised by the universities Abat Oliba CEU, Alacant, Andorra, Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, CEU Cardenal Herrera, Girona, Illes Balears, Internacional de Catalunya, Jaume I, Lleida, Miguel Hernández d’Elx, Oberta de Catalunya, Politècnica de Catalunya, Politècnica de València, Pompeu Fabra, Ramon Llull, Rovira i Virgili, València and Vic Central de Catalunya. The Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency (AQU Catalunya) was in charge of the technical direction of the study. The programme also includes the support of the Andorra University Quality Assurance Agency (AQUA), the Valencian Quality Assurance Agency (AVAP), and the Government of Catalonia.

Scientific directors:

  • Antonio Ariño Villarroya, catedràtic de Sociologia de la Universitat de València.
  • Ramon Llopis Goig, catedràtic de Sociologia de la Universitat de València.
  • Miquel Martínez Martín, catedràtic de Teoria de l’Educació de la Universitat de Barcelona.
  • Ernest Pons Fanals, professor titular d’Economia de la Universitat de Barcelona.

Technical directors:

  • Anna Prades Nebot, cap de l’Àrea d’Internacionalització i Generació del Coneixement d’AQU Catalunya.
  • Daniel Torrents Vila, gestor de projectes de l’Àrea d’Internacionalització i Generació del Coneixement d’AQU Catalunya

Main results of the study (in Catalan)

The UAB, with Sustainable Development Goals

  • Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • Quality education