STUDENT LIFE / MAY. 26, 2014
version 3, draft 3

UK Students Feel Their Course Represents ‘Poor Value for Money’

students in campus

One in three students in England who pay tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year claim their degree course is either poor or very poor value for money. The survey conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA), has also revealed  that students weren’t getting much more teaching time from university lecturers.

Despite many students paying more for their education, since the new tuition fee system was introduced in 2012, they only receive 10 minutes a week extra with university lecturers.

The Findings in a Nutshell

In brief the key findings of the survey are:

-          One third of current first and second-year students (33%) said they were receiving poor or very poor value for money, compared with 18% in 2012.

-          Only 36% of these students thought their course represented good value for money, compared with 52% in 2012.

-          31% said they would definitely or maybe have chosen another course if they were to have their time again.

-          Students miss about 9% of lectures and seminars, with the top reasons cited being that the lectures were “not very useful” and “the notes were available online”.

-          Students in Scotland were more likely to say their course was worth the money, with 70% of those at Scottish universities rating their course as good or very good value.

When asked about which three key areas they would target institutional expenditure at, nearly 50% of the students polled said “reducing fee levels”, followed by increasing the number of teaching hours available to students and reducing the size of tuition groups.

Students Have Higher Expectations

Obviously, students have higher expectations from universities, especially in view of the fact that they currently pay almost three times as much as students who enrolled on their course before 2012. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, underlines: "The increase in fees in England and the shift away from public funding to higher graduate contributions means that students are clearly demanding more from their courses.

A key problem is the lack of information available to students such as the amount and type of scheduled teaching, so that students make a fully informed decision about their degree.  Mr. Dandridge noted that "The important thing is ensuring that students have enough information about their courses and that the experience matches their expectations…Due to the quality of its degrees, the UK has one the strongest and most highly respected higher education systems in the world".

Universities Need to “Raise Their Game”

Universities Minister, David Willets, highlighted the importance for universities to provide higher standards of teaching as “young people are more serious about their education than ever before” and now have “higher expectations”. He also outlined that universities need to move forward from "the days where the academic experience is simply sitting in rows with 500 other people taking notes from slides on a screen that you can access online on your laptop”.

All in all, the study revealed that a third of students in England describe their degree courses as poor value for money. The key findings suggest that students in England are receiving only a little more while paying much more.  Interestingly, the study points to important regional differences, with 70% of students in Scotland saying that their course was good value for money in comparison with 32% of students in England who claimed the same thing. On top of this, students in England indicated that they need more teaching time in smaller groups as well as a reduction of fee levels. 

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