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High student satisfaction levels masks concerns

High student satisfaction levels masks concerns

A recent survey has highlighted issues facing students across the UK as the new academic year approaches. Among major concerns were high debt and accommodation concerns. Many are worried about the implications of taking on large amounts of personal debt as well as the possibility of low quality accommodation.

Students’ satisfaction with their university experience remains high amid concerns over debt rises, according to a major new report. Satisfaction has remained high but saw a slight drop year-on-year - with the overall rating falling from 7.7/10 in 2014 to 6.9/10 in 2016 - as debt remains a worry for pre-university students, growing from nine per cent in 2013 to 13 per cent in 2014, 19 per cent in 2015, and finally hitting 23 per cent in 2016. This has followed on from the recent news university tuition fees in England will rise to £9,250 per year from 2017, as maintenance grants for around half a million of England’s poorest students are also axed. Avoiding debt was the key motivation for not going into higher education, with 56 per cent of those asked citing it as the main reason not to attend. This year’s report from The Student Room (TSR) also found gender and socio-economic background still have a huge impact on students’ confidence and optimism for the future.

Almost eighty per cent of those from less privileged backgrounds were less confident about getting a job than those from privileged backgrounds (7.8/10). Male students also feel more confident about getting a job than their female counterparts; 7.3/10 compared to females who rated themselves just 6.9/10 in confidence. The survey, the largest of its kind ever run by TSR, looked at school and college leavers’ motivations, the usefulness of information to support the decision-making journey, the impact of university tuition fees and cost of living, and the perceptions of apprenticeships.

There was a significantly large difference in perception about who studies apprenticeships. While the reality is that a roughly equal split of men and women take them up, the research, however, showed 40 per cent of students thought apprenticeships were taken mainly by men compared to just one per cent who thought they were taken mainly by women. Anxiety about the future was much higher in females than males; only 14 per cent of female respondents said they were very excited about the future compared to 26 per cent of male respondents.

Further to this, a large proportion cited concerns over student accommodation saying that they were concerned that they might struggle to find suitable housing. As many universities provide low quality halls on site there was anxiety that good quality alternatives may be in short supply. Many of the larger institutions, however, have encouraged private investment from companies that build bespoke boutique living spaces. High demand, stable tenancies and strong yields have seen popularity in the sector explode over recent years and as more come to market these concerns should be alleviated.

Despite the report’s eye-opening findings, on the whole, going to university and getting a degree emerged as still being the most popular option for student participants. Overall, 82 per cent said they would go straight to university following school, more than double the percentage of young people applying for higher education in the UK. This of course means that along with alleviating fears over debt implications a large building drive will be needed to provide these students with quality living spaces and if current trends continue there should be no shortage of private investors keen to fund the projects.