Results of the survey for students

Survey about effects of the Covid-19 pandemic

The School of Sustainability at Leuphana would like to raise awareness of the challenges that the Covid 19 pandemic poses to our students and all other members of the faculty. This is part of the School of Sustainability's 2020-2022 position paper on gender and diversity. 

The first round of the survey ran from July 2020 to September 2020, the second round ran from March to April 2021. All School of Sustainability students were invited to participate. The response rate was 57 responses. All quotes are from participants in the survey.

All suggestions and requests for how we as a faculty can support students during the pandemic have been documented and will help us to improve our support.

Results of the survey

The following is a summary of the results for the first and second run of the survey sorted by different categories. Quotes from the survey complement the results and provide a more detailed insight. Here you can also find a summary of the results for download.

  • 1. Challenges
  • 2. Effects
  • 3. Strategies
  • 4. Support from the university
  • 5. Suggestions and wishes for the university

1. Challenges

Due to Covid-19, the students experience various challenges both in university context and privately:

Challenges studying:

  • Difficult to find a suitable study place (room too small, no private room available)
  • Very high screentime
  • Lack of interaction with other students and lecturers
  • Technical challenges (bad internet connection, non-compatible devices)
  • Motivation problems

I find self-organization, motivation and estimation of workload more difficult without the direct contacts. Also, the workload seems to be higher this semester. I was more stressed throughout. Because I work at home, I often have the feeling that I can or have to work even more.

Translated from German

Challenges private:

  • By far the most frequently mentioned: Loneliness and strongly reduced social contacts
  • Financial difficulties and loss of job
  • Responsibility for caring for relatives, which takes time and energy
  • No clear separation between work/study and free time
  • General insecurity and worry about other people and the development of the pandemic
  • No change from everyday life, switching off is not possible
  •  Hopelessness that the situation will improve soon
  • Psychological problems/illnesses
  • Difficult housing situation and no possibility to move out
  • Lack of exercise

Psychologically, I feel worse than usual. It's similar for many friends and people I know. I think that's especially because you have less contact with other people. Studying is also something very social for me, meeting on campus means a lot to me.

Translated from German

Differences to the beginning of the pandemic:

  • Getting used to the situation (less fear, more serenity)
  • Loss of hope in politics, disappointment
  • Lack of motivation and frustration has increased
  • Reduction of social contacts
  • Decline of mental and physical health
  • More stress
  • Longing for excitement has increased 

As an introvert, the lockdown last year kinda helped me to recharge and reconnect to myself. I was thrilled. After one year, I find myself breaking down crying every other day. The entertainment indoors no longer brings me excitement or relaxation. It felt like all I do these days is trying to work on the thesis and then go to bed. The next day, I do it again in repeat. A good day, for me now, is when I manage not to break down.


2. Effects

Resulting from the situation and the challenges mentioned above, students reported the following effects the pandemic has on them:

Effects on studying and career:

  • By far the most frequently mentioned: Less concentration and motivation for online studies
  • Lower performance, it takes longer to complete tasks
  • The quality of one's own performance and examinations seems to decline, many also expect lower grades
  • No more fun in studying
  • Desire to complete studies as quickly as possible
  • Thoughts of dropping out or continuing studies at a later date
  • Postponing the final thesis because data collection is currently not possible
  • Positive effects: Writing thesis without distractions, more time for studies because of loss of part-time job, opportunities to attend other modules; working at own pace
  • Possible delay in starting the Master's programme and lower job entry opportunities in the short term

At the beginning, I was a lot less productive, but this changed somewhat after a period of getting used to the workstation at home, for example. The last few semesters I have worked and studied almost exclusively in the library. Also, discussions come up more difficult in Zoom sessions. I think that's a real shame, especially since I'm now also in my sixth semester. Personally, I can simply take away much more through face-to-face classes. Even the most interesting seminars are not as much fun as in other semesters.

Translated from German

The pressure to finish my studies within the period of my financial support has increased. As a result, I had to set other priorities, but this has opened up a window of time this summer for writing the first draft of the PhD exposé - it pays to become/be pragmatic and flexible.

Translated from German

Effects private:

  • Activities generally consume more energy and time
  • Effects on mental health seem to be quite severe: many reported high pressure, stress and anxiety, some also depression
  • Physical health affected as well (esp. headache, muscle tensions, worse eyesight)
  • Some reported no negative effects or positively mentioned new perspectives and ideas

3. Strategies

In order to deal with these effects, different strategies were mentioned:

Strategies studying:

  • Take fewer courses
  • Lower your own expectations of performance and accept potentially lower grades
  • Set up a comfortable workplace
  • Create suitable places to learn (leave your own home)
  • Study in groups, discussing study content with fellow students

I try to be as patient as possible with myself and not force myself to be productive when I cannot really focus. I give myself permission to do nothing more often and not feel bad about it. I try to trust that there will always be short periods when I can then be productive and move forward.
It also helps me to sit in a room with my roommates and work side by side. Apart from that, I'm thinking about going back home to southern Germany more often in the coming semester to get a regular change of scenery. 

Translated from German

Strategies private:

  • Acceptance of the situation
  • Staying in touch and spending time with family, friends, flatmates and fellow students
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Self-care
  • Sports, physical activity and spending more time outside
  • Active time management (screen-free times, fixed end of work/study time)
  • Seek professional help (psychological support)
  • Consume less news
  • Actively reflecting on the pandemic and the situation (e.g. by keeping a diary, talking to others, research approach, etc.).
  • Some, however, have no coping strategies, react with repression of feelings

I try to find a balance, to go into nature, to do yoga, to meditate. As far as the regulations of the country allow, I try not to neglect my social contacts. However, regular therapy visits and a sick leave for a few weeks were unavoidable.

Translated from German

4. Support from the university

Based on the situation between March and July/August 2020 (depending on when the survey was submitted), students experienced the following support from Leuphana University and the Faculty of Sustainability:

  • (Relatively) quick switch to online education
  • Sometimes positively mentioned: learning materials (e.g. videos) and online formats
  • Helpful staff if problems occurred (library, administration, etc.)
  • Communication and updates via e-mails (sometimes late)
  • After it re-opened: Working spaces, library, printer (but also criticised because it was closed so long)
  • Some also said that they don’t get any support at all

Based on the situation in March/April 2021 students experienced the following support from Leuphana University and the School of Sustainability:

  • Extension of the standard period of study
  • Mentoring Environmental Sciences
  • Events about mental health
  • Online formats for writing together: "Zeit zum Schreiben!" organized by the Writing Center
  • Online formats to meet other students, e.g. from university institutions or initiatives (partly not used because students do not want to spend even more time in front of their laptops)

The following were rated as positive:

  • Information emails from the university
  • Effort that was put into the digital teaching offer
  • Partial facilitation of online exams
  • Partial support from teaching staff for BAFöG extension applications
  • Employers at the university are understanding for the situation of student assistants


  • Too high workload
  • Professors are increasingly less considerate of students' situation
  • Information is partly not available in English
  • almost half of the students state that they receive no or hardly any support

5. Suggestions and wishes for the university

Referring to July/August/September 2020 (depending on when the survey was submitted), students had the following suggestions and wishes for further support by the university and school:

University level:

  • Comprehensive change to face-to-face courses as soon as possible (change model is not perceived as helpful)
  • Workplaces at the university (library, seminar rooms)
  • Reduce tuition fees
  • Further extension of the standard period of study
  • Better, less short-term communication and updates
  • Mentioned several times: offering psychological help and events on mental health, soft skill counselling (e.g. time management, stress resilience)
  • Students would like the university to be more politically active and advocate for students' interests

School and module level:

  • Greater understanding and empathy for the situation and challenges of students
  • Adjustment of grading scale
  • More flexibility on the part of teachers, e.g. changing the date of exams, taking feedback more into account
  • Reduction of workload

Specific suggestions for online teaching:

  • Design online courses in an appealing way, use online tools sensibly, do not simply transfer face-to-face formats to online teaching
  • Videos instead of Zoom lectures, more Moodle courses
  • Instead of online events, offer outdoor events if necessary
  • Wish for uniform rules for all modules, e.g. no (perceived) camera obligation (sometimes perceived as distracting and causes stress)
  • Limit events to 1.5h, no 8h block seminars online
  • Lecturers should consistently schedule and observe breaks
  • Offer the possibility for students to ask the lecturer questions after online lectures
  • Check whether someone is recording online lectures with external software

Specific suggestions for examinations: 

  • More flexibility in examinations, e.g. offer other examination formats than written examinations, offer the option of taking examinations alone (not as group work).
  • More technology time for online exams

Administration Level:

  • Consistent provision of all information in English
  • FAQ page of the student service
  • Clearly communicate responsibilities

I would have liked to see a better adaptation of the teaching formats to the current situation. For example, some of the block courses should have been split up, as it is much more difficult to concentrate on the screen for several hours. More flexibility and consultation would have been nice.

Translated from German

I was lucky, but I have heard from some friends that their workload has increased [...]. There is still a difference between available time and workload here. Just because we are suddenly not sitting in university and have less official events (sports, engagement, ...) doesn't mean that we now have more time for every module. Continuous work on the computer is exhausting and not possible without breaks. In addition, the lack of a working environment and fixed structure is also a problem for many students.

Translated from German


If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact us at the following address:

Contact persons

  • Dr. Fabienne Moreau
  • Prof. Dr. Berta Martín-López

Neele Bünning (student representative)
Antonia Michel (student representative)