Only a third of students think university is good value

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Students in a queue for graduation

A new report reveals that only about a third of university students think their course is good value for money. We look at the facts and explain how you can use this information to help you make the right decisions about your future.

15,000 students took part in the course, with around a third (32%) reporting that their course was poor or very poor value for money. Another third felt that their course was neither good nor poor value, and only 37% thought their course was good value for money.

Back in 2012, just before tuition fees were raised from £3,375 to a maximum of £9,000, over half of students reported feeling their university course was good value. Students are worried about tuition fees rising again – something the government is proposing – with almost nine in ten saying they don’t want fees to rise further.

How did students judge their course?

Things related to the quality of teaching had a big impact on how students judged the value of their course. This included the tutor’s ability to make the subject interesting and to motivate their students, how helpful and supportive teaching staff were, and how good they were at explaining things.

Students also said that the number of timetabled sessions with their tutors affected their feelings about the value of the course.

Growing worries about student mental health

Students were also asked about their mental health. Only one in five (21%) said their anxiety levels were low, compared with 41% of the general population. This reflects growing worries about the mental health of university students and young people as a whole.

Last year, a separate report said that the number of students using university counselling services had risen from 8,000 in 2012-13 to 18,000 in 2014-15. Again, money worries due to higher tuition fees were one of the many reasons linked to this increase.

So what can I take from this?

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to university. Although many students were concerned about value for money, 85% of students said they were either very or quite satisfied with their course, and over a quarter said they were very satisfied. It’s also worth pointing out that a third didn’t have a feeling either way, saying they felt their course was neither good nor poor value for money.

'Two-thirds of students say uni is not good value but 85% are satisfied. What do I do?'

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What you can take from the report is the importance of choosing the right path when you leave school or college, and how vital it is to look carefully when choosing a university.

Compare at your options carefully

University is without a doubt an expensive option and if you go, you’ll be left with a lot of debt to pay back when you graduate. But you will almost certainly be entitled to some form of help, whether that’s a student loan or even a grant (money you don’t have to pay back).

The first question you should be asking yourself is not "which university should I choose?" but "what should I do when I leave school or college?" Think about your career goals and your other priorities. There are lots of other routes open to students approaching 18, from higher and degree apprenticeships to school leaver programmes, and many of these can get you to the same place as a university degree – often while avoiding debt and earning a wage at the same time.

Be a savvy buyer

For many, university is the right choice. It may be the only way to get the qualifications you need for your chosen career, you might be passionate about your subject, or a mixture of both.

Make sure you choose wisely when selecting a course and a university. Look at the reasons the survey respondents gave: quality of teaching was important to them, as was timetabled teaching. When shortlisting universities, find out about these things to get the most value from your course. Talk to students on the open days, chat to the staff who will be teaching you to get a feel for their tutoring style, and ask how much contact time you’ll have.

If you’re undecided about whether university is the right choice for you, check out our detailed guide to the questions to ask yourself when making one of life’s biggest decisions.

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The report was published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA). You can see the full publication here.



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