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Survey of Postgraduate and Researcher Experience during the Covid-19 Pandemic

At this extraordinary time, as we all adjust to life in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Oxford Pastorate team have continued to serve and minister to the postgraduate and research community using the remarkable communications technologies available to us. We are in contact with many postgraduates and researchers and have seen that there have been both challenges and consolations through the period of lockdown. In order to better understand what postgraduates and researchers were experiencing, and to better serve, support and resource them, we created an online survey and share the results below.

Our survey was sent out via email to our student mailing lists, to local church postgrad groups, and via social media (Facebook and Twitter) during the three-week period 22 May to 5 June when lockdown was still firmly in place in the UK.

  • 37 postgraduates and researchers from a broad range of disciplines answered, of which
    • 33 were at Oxford University, three were at the University of Aberdeen and one was based outside the UK.
    • 10 were studying for an MA, MSc or MPhil, 22 for DPhils/ PhDs and 5 were post-doctoral researchers.

Our main findings:

  • The most severe challenge this group are facing during the pandemic is ‘feeling anxiety about the future’ closely followed by ‘a lack of routine’.
  • ‘Feeling isolated’ was not limited to those living alone but was also reported by people living in shared accommodations.
  • Of the six who have moved to live outside the UK during this time, five said ‘it was only mildly true’ or ‘not true at all’ that they were ‘struggling with deteriorating mental health’ perhaps suggesting moving home during the pandemic is a good source of support.
  • Four respondents have had a loved one sick with Covid-19 and one person had experienced the illness themselves.
  • Consolations and enjoyments taken during the pandemic were varied but the most highly rated was gaining ‘a greater appreciation of nature’ followed by ‘getting more daily exercise’.

Find four graphs illustrating our findings below

Choices were: (L-R): In my university city; I’ve moved away from my university city but an still in the UK; I’ve moved away from my university city and am outside the UK; Other (Please specify).

Choices from top to bottom: with family; with friends or housemates; in university accommodation with access to shared space; alone in university accommodation; alone in private accommodation; other (please specify)

Choices were (L-R) I am struggling with: isolation; deterioration in mental health; anxiety about the future; the lack of routine; because a loved on has had covid-19; I have had Covid-19;with financial difficulties.

Choices were (L-R) I am enjoying: increased connection (virtually) with people from around the world; more time with friends and family (virtually); talking about matters of faith; a deeper relationship with God; greater appreciation of nature; getting more exercise than usual


Respondents were also asked to list what resources (be those blogs and articles, podcasts, bible passages or sermons) they were finding beneficial during lockdown. As you might imagine, these were incredibly varied, but here are some of the highlights:

Blogs and articles
From Regent College News - https://www.regent-college.edu...
From Duke Divinity School - https://medium.com/@DukeDivini...

Unbelievable? With Justin Brierly
Timothy Keller podcast by Gospel in Life

Bible passages
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Matt Searles' album 'Watches of the Night' and 'Tumbling Skies'
The Gospel Coalition's playlist, 'Songs of Comfort for Anxious Souls'
Bible doodling resources on Pinterest

We have included further, specially produced resources in the other sections of this newsletter. See former Pastorate Chaplains Dr Emilie Noteboom speaking on ‘Wisdom in a time of uncertainty’ and Revd Dr Christian Hofreiter speaking on ‘Vocation in a time of uncertainty’, as well as the McDonald Chaplain, Revd Dr Christopher Landau’s interview with clinical psychologist, Dr Jen Brickman, considering ‘Strategies for flourishing in a pandemic’.