Durham University students' experiences of asymptomatic COVID-19 testing: A qualitative study

Leah Ffion Jones*, Eleonore Batteux, Stefanie Bonfield, Jaskiran Kaur Bhogal, Jo Taylor, Camila Caiado, Jacqui Ramagge, Dale Weston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: To evaluate the asymptomatic coronavirus testing programme at Durham University by exploring students' barriers and facilitators to taking part and provide recommendations to improve the programme. 

Design: Qualitative interviews. 

Setting: Online. 

Participants: 30 students enrolled at Durham University were interviewed in March 2021. 

Main outcome measures: Attitudes towards testing, experiences of testing and barriers and facilitators to engaging in testing at Durham University. 

Results: Key motivations for testing included protecting oneself and others and accessing facilities and events. The process of booking, accessing and doing a test was mostly easy and convenient, although some may prefer home testing. There were concerns about the accuracy of tests and the implications of a positive result. Some highlighted they might be less likely to engage in testing if vaccinated. A negative test result provided confidence to engage in their daily activities, while encouraging some to socialise more. 

Conclusions: The findings show that the testing programme at Durham University is convenient and well organised, with testing as a potential requirement to access social events, and self-isolation support being key contributor to uptake. These findings provide insights into young adults' attitudes towards testing and can inform testing programmes in other universities and settings with asymptomatic testing programmes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere055644
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The study was funded by Public Health England, where the funders are separate from the research team. All authors at the UK Health Security Agency (previously Public Health England) completed the study as part of their roles at Public Health England.

All authors have completed the Unified Competing Interest form (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare: DW’s time on this project was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response, a partnership between Public Health England, King’s College London and the University of East Anglia, and the NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation, a partnership between Public Health England and the University of Bristol.

Open Access: This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.

Publisher Copyright:© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

Citation: Jones LF, Batteux E, Bonfield S, et al. Durham University students’ experiences of asymptomatic COVID-19 testing: a qualitative study. BMJ Open 2021;11:e055644.

DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-055644


  • COVID-19
  • public health
  • qualitative research


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