Academic and psychosocial challenges of Health Sciences students during the COVID-19 pandemic: A University of Technology perspective




Academic challenges, Psychosocial challenges, University students, COVID-19, Remote learning, Mental health


The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in South African universities and institutes of higher learning experiencing an unprecedented shift to online learning in 2020, coupled by limited access to campus, in order to prevent community transmission. However, the potential impact of the outbreak on the academic and psychosocial wellbeing of students warrants further exploration, as the rapid changes and the disruption to normal academic life, has left many students feeling socially isolated and struggling to cope with massive uncertainty. In addition, Health Sciences students may experience added anxiety due to their line of work, which places them at the forefront of the healthcare environment. This study explored the academic and psychosocial challenges experienced by students enrolled in a Health Sciences faculty in a University of Technology (UoT), as they transitioned through the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown. A qualitative approach with an exploratory descriptive design was used to guide the study. A sample of students across all levels of study (first, second and third years as well as postgraduates) from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) in South Africa were selected. Sample recruitment was done through non-probability sampling techniques which include purposive and convenience sampling. Data saturation was reached after interviewing 15 participants on Microsoft Teams. The interview schedule comprised key points on understanding how the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown affected students personally and academically. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and subjected to content and thematic analyses. Six broad themes emerged from the data, which captured the disruption students experienced within the context of their academic life, their personal fears and anxieties, struggles with online learning and connectivity issues. Students also expressed challenges whilst studying remotely at home. The findings suggested that there is an urgent need for universities to reflect on ensuring students’ mental health wellbeing as well as ensuring academic success amidst a turbulent physical and psychological environment.


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How to Cite

Govender, N., Reddy, P., & Bhagwan, R. (2021). Academic and psychosocial challenges of Health Sciences students during the COVID-19 pandemic: A University of Technology perspective. Perspectives in Education, 39(3), 44-61.



Research articles