February 6th, 2018
In a study released in June last year, Higher Education Policy Unit and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) found that “the proportion of those who thought they had “good” or “very good” value is now at 35 per cent – the lowest level record - compared to more than 50 per cent five years ago.”
As reported by The Independent, many students had begun to feel like the service they were receiving from their universities, in terms of tutoring, study materials and career prospects fell below their expectations for the money they were paying for them.
It was a pretty comprehensive piece of research too, with 14,000 undergraduates taking part in the survey, which asked a broad range of questions relating to value for money.
Encouragingly, a vast majority said that they felt they had learned “a lot” since starting their courses, whilst also agreeing that teaching quality was high.
When quizzed on the study’s findings, Nick Hillman, Director of Hepi, commented that many factors have contributed to the findings, including accommodation which he said had a big impact. He also said “Such factors have a direct impact on how engaged students are with their studies as well as on their overall quality of life. For a truly great academic experience, we need to think ever more deeply about how to respond to the individual characteristics of each student.”
With that in mind, the chairman of the Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon, has this week said that university students receive “paltry returns” for their investment into further education.
“The ‘graduate premium’ varies wildly according to subject and institution,” the senior Conservative MP said in a keynote speech Centre for Social Justice think tank. “For many, the returns are paltry,”
“We have become obsessed with full academic degrees in this country,” he said. “We are creating a higher education system that overwhelmingly favours academic degrees, while intermediate and higher technical offerings are comparatively tiny.
“The labour market does not need an ever-growing supply of academic degrees.”
He went on to suggest that universities that do not offer a good return for the tuition fees should reinvent themselves as institutions for technical excellence, offering training for more vocational subjects. He also suggested that many more universities should offer degree apprenticeships, also hinting that those who don’t should have their funding reduced.
Many have already criticised the MP, saying that attempting to place value on higher education purely based on the needs of the labour market is ultimately a poor idea as those needs and skill gaps often change with economic demand.
Many of those representing universities and student bodies were also quick to point out that student numbers are still increasing, despite a small drop in admissions this year, which UCAS suggested was in relation to there being 2.5% less 18 year olds this year.
It strikes an interesting question about the wider value of university education, however, and it’s not unreasonable to suggest that some of the smaller or less established universities are often charging as much as Russell Group universities, which in the context of career prospects is fairly ludicrous.
The survey about student wellbeing, student attitudes and the comments from Mr Halfon highlight a growing issue which may need to be taken into consideration, that students and potential undergraduates are fostering a perception of higher education that it does not represent value for money.
Whether your university course delivers good value for money is a complex question that almost certainly can’t be answered in a uniform fashion. Value, after all, is subjective, and what one may deem valuable may be different to another.
What almost certainly can be agreed upon as a marker for value is career potential and the number of postgraduates who go on to highly paid work. Satisfaction in teaching is high, and numbers continue to rise.
As was suggested by Nick Hillman, accommodation certainly plays a large part in that feeling of wellbeing, and we can be fairly certain that if the current trends of investment by private developers continues then there will be plenty of high quality accommodation to serve the needs of an increasing number of university students.
If you are interested in investing in high quality student accommodation, take a look at our property listings.