New university students need better preparation say researchers


Young adults are unprepared for university according to a study by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and Unite Students.

Earlier in the year, Hepi found that only one third of students felt that university was good value for money, and this latest Hepi study – involving more than 2,000 young people – was looking into the expectations of students.

The researchers found that while young people are excited and nervous about going to university, they can have unrealistic expectations.

Often, they expect to have more ‘contact hours’ than they had at school, when in actual fact it is usually the opposite way round. 66 per cent of those surveyed believed that there would be more group work at university than at school, while 60 per cent expected there to be more lecture hours than classroom hours in school.

Meanwhile, the study suggests that many institutions are not informed about pre-existing mental health conditions or concerns, with only one third of would-be students with a mental health condition saying they planned to inform their chosen university.

Additionally, around one in five of those would-be students believed that parents should not be told, something that is widely debated.

Nick Hillman, director of Hepi, said: “We know lots about what students think but very little about what those applying to higher education expect to happen when they get there.

“We set out to fix this gap because people who expect a different student experience to the one they get are less satisfied, learn less and say they are getting less good value for money.

“Most applicants expect to spend a lot more time in lectures than they do in school lessons, but few university students actually do this.

“Almost three-quarters of them expect their future university to contact their families if they face mental health issues, but this is a legal minefield so typically does not happen.

“Schools, parents and universities – not to mention policymakers – all need to help school-leavers get real about their expectations.”