Students believe university not ‘value for money’


An annual study of student attitudes has found that levels of satisfaction with university “value for money” have fallen for the fifth consecutive year.

Just five years ago, 53 per cent of UK students believed that university was “good” or “very good” value, however this has now dropped to a record low of 35 per cent.

English students, who are required to pay the highest fees for tuition, were found to have the lowest opinions on value for money.

As well as the opinions on value for money, the study also found that there was a decline in student “wellbeing”.

The Student Academic Experience Survey, from the Higher Education Policy Unit and the Higher Education Academy, tracks the trends in students’ views of higher education, using a sample of around 14,000 current students across the UK.

The study found that students’ opinions of value for money had continued to fall, with the number of students believing their university to be “poor” or “very poor” value had almost doubled since 2012.

Tuition fees have become one of the key issues raised in the general election, with Labour pledging to scrap fees in England, which had been set to rise £9,250 later this year.

The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have defended the system of loans and fees in place at the moment, in which students do not make repayments until they earn over the minimum threshold of £21,000.

Elsewhere in the UK, Scottish students, who are not currently required to pay tuition fees, were also questioning whether university represented good value for money; 56 per cent of students belied university to be “good” or “very good” value for money, representing a fall from last year.

47 per cent of Welsh students thought that university was good value for money, as did 42 per cent of students in Northern Ireland.

In England however, only 32 per cent of students believed that their university represented good value for money.

The authors of the report suggest that the quality of teaching is a key consideration in students’ opinions of whether or not they were getting value for money,

They study also found that there was a vast difference in the number of teaching hours that students from different courses required; students on a history course required 8 hours of teaching time, compared to medicine student who were required to be taught for 19 hours per week.

Consequently, students on medicine course were more likely to feel as though they were getting good value for money, with social studies and business students being the least likely to hold this view.

Many students believed that universities had not done enough to explain the manner in which tuition fees were spent, with only 20 per cent of students saying they had received enough information on this front.

This study also looked at students’ happiness and wellbeing and this has also fallen, as only 14 per cent said that they were satisfied with their lives.

Young women and gay students at university are particularly likely to feel unhappy.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Unit, said the survey showed universities needed to “think ever more deeply about how to respond to the individual characteristics of each student”.

“The survey shows students want universities to provide information on where fees go, taxpayers to cover more of the costs and policymakers to provide stronger arguments for future fee rises.”