More than 22% of university students belonging to Catalan-speaking territories (Catalonia, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands and Andorra) claim to have had anxiety problems at some time in their lives. In addition, 19.5% claim to have suffered it during the central months of the pandemic (2020). This is indicated by the study ‘Via universitària 2020-2022’ coordinated by the Xarxa Vives d’Universitats. According to the responses to this same survey, which for the first time has included questions related to the mental health and emotional well-being of the students, 26.4% of the students state that they have experienced episodes of depression at some time and 17. 1% claim to have done so during the pandemic.
‘Via universitària’ is a study that tries to find out the living conditions of the students, their ways of studying, their relationship with the university, their cultural habits, the economic constraints and, also, their expectations, values and beliefs in relation to the higher education. This Tuesday, the scientific and technical direction of this report presented the results of the third edition (2020-2022) in which nearly 50,000 students from 20 Xarxa Vives universities were interviewed. The coordinators of the project highlighted some of the conclusions of the study, among which the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of university students stood out.
Another of the fundamental aspects of this report is that it analyzes whether access to university is equitable, that is, whether all groups, strata and social classes have the same possibilities of accessing university. In this way, the results of ‘Via Universitària’ prove that the university system is still far from equity, since only 9% of undergraduate students come from a lower social class. With low social class, those responsible for the study refer to people whose parents do not have post-compulsory academic training and who are part of the “blue collar workers”, those who are part of the lowest rung within the business hierarchies and salaries. According to them, this social group is not the majority in today’s society, since 30-35% of citizens only have compulsory studies.
To this day, the family continues to be the main source of financing for expenses related to university studies. In fact, for 28.3% of undergraduate students, family income remains the only source. However, parents cover, on average, 54% of expenses, scholarships 17.2%, work done during the course 16.9%, work during vacations 6.3% and almost The remaining 4% comes from other types of income (for example, loans). The children of the lower-middle social classes are the ones who most depend on income related to their work during the school year. On the other hand, 6 out of 10 undergraduate students at Catalan-speaking universities live with their parents or relatives during their studies, 21% share a flat and only 3.3% live alone in rented homes.
Women account for 64% of enrollment in university courses, although the percentage drops among university professors and authors of academic publications. Despite being the majority at a general level, when looking at the data according to the studies, the data changes and women become only 15% in engineering related to information and communication technology, 27% in industrial or 39% in experimental sciences and mathematics. Likewise, ‘Via universitària’ shows that women’s self-confidence decreases in masculinized careers and also their perception of external recognition.
Anna Prades, head of the Internationalization and Knowledge Generation Area at AQU Catalunya, highlighted that the low percentage of women in certain careers is due to the fact that “there is still an imaginary of what careers for men and careers for women are”. As corroborated by the study, women continue to focus on degrees related to health, care, education and the arts, while men do so more towards science and engineering.
The work coordinated by the Xarxa Vives also points out that women spend more hours studying -an average of 17.27 compared to 15.70 for their colleagues-, but that they also spend more time on housework and childcare. other people (9.74 vs. 8.73). Instead, they dedicate more time to leisure (14.11 hours compared to 11.83) and to paid work (8.23 compared to 7.02).
To study and to work
Only 1 in 10 college students have a full-time job and the majority do not work (51%) or work occasionally. Despite this, the percentage of those who work full time has increased by nearly 5 points since 2018. 26% combine work with studies on a continuous basis and upper-class students are the ones who least combine both fields. The data varies according to the age of the students and the type of studies: those who are dedicated to the social sciences are the ones who most try to combine both things and, among students over 31 years of age, 6 out of 10 are those who work more than 35 hours per week.
Most of the university students come from the PAU (university entrance exams), they are young and without family responsibilities. However, an increase has been detected in the proportion of students who access university after some interruption of their studies (20% of university students stop their studies at some point). In addition, the virtual university has increased the number of older students, many of them with work and family responsibilities. Regarding this phenomenon, Anna Prades indicated that the virtual university “is a device of second chance for some profiles”.
From the Xarxa Vives d’Universitats they believe that universities, institutions and society must fight to offer alternatives to family financing to ensure that anyone who wishes to study a university degree can do so. But that work must also be done to make schedules more flexible, so that students can combine their studies with a job or other responsibilities. Likewise, it must insist on promoting initiatives that attract female talent to the scientific and technological field, that the emotional well-being of students must be monitored and the involvement of students in the institutional bodies of the university must be encouraged.