According to a survey commissioned by Future Finance, Europe’s biggest specialist student lender, an overwhelming majority (82%) of students across the UK now expect a lot more from their universities because of the tuition fees they pay.
Only 5% of students disagree with this nationally, highlighting the quality of teaching and facilities now demanded by students. This comes on the back of a White Paper released by Jo Johnson, the universities minister, entitled “Success as a Knowledge Economy”, which intends to increase transparency and competition among universities, and allow institutions to increase tuition fees beyond the current £9,000 cap, provided they demonstrate quality standards of teaching via a Teaching Excellence Framework.
Universities can’t simply demand £9,000 and provide a mediocre or satisfactory service. I’m making a big investment in my entire future and I want to get my money’s worth – Jessica Reid, student, University of Sunderland
The research, which surveyed over 2,000 students across the UK, finds that students’ high expectations of universities is unanimous across the regions. The west Midlands tops the table with 88% of students expecting a lot more from their universities, followed closely by the north west and south east, both at 86%. Just over half of students in Scotland (56%), however, expect a lot more from universities, perhaps due to the lower tuition fees north of the border.
When asked about the three most important services universities provide:
1. 47% mentioned ‘good teaching and feedback from tutors’ as the most important service
2. 29% stated a ‘good programme to study’ as the most important consideration
3. 12% said a ‘good university reputation’ is key
4. Only 7% of students chose a ‘good university location’ as the most important consideration when selecting a university
When asked about fees, only 22% of students nationally feel that studying at a more expensive university is worth the extra fees because they are more likely to get a good job at the end of it; in fact, 46% disagree entirely with this statement.
Almost a quarter (24%) of students across the UK are not confident that their education will pay for itself in the future (for example, by getting a graduate-level job). Most students in the north west (29%) feel this, followed by Wales (28%), north east (26%) and London (25%). Scotland registers the lowest proportion of students questioning the return on investment of their education at 19%. Less than half nationally (48%) said that they were confident their education will pay for itself in the future.
Commenting on the findings, Brian Norton, CEO of Future Finance, said: “Tuition fees in the UK went into orbit four years ago and since then students have quite rightly become a lot more value conscious. A university education can be a wonderful experience, giving you the chance to learn, develop and go on to fulfil your life ambitions, but it’s also a significant investment. So it’s no wonder students are scrutinising their university options more intensely as they seek out the very best education and facilities.
“With this in mind, we’re going to see a growing demand for transparency on university standards. I’m delighted to see that the new government proposals from universities minister, Jo Johnson, intend to tackle this head on and, in doing so, make it easier for high quality, specialist universities to get up and running. It’s this supply side, if we were to view higher education in such terms, that needs to keep pace with student needs and demands.
“Our study clearly shows the three areas where universities must perform. There’s no substitute for good teaching, good courses and a good reputation. But many institutions also need to take a broader look at the student lifecycle and ensure they create a clear, measureable path to long-term career success and employability.”
Jessica Reid, a student at the University of Sunderland, added: “With students paying so much money to go to university these days, it’s only right that we get the best education, training and resources to help us get the careers we really want. Universities can’t simply demand £9,000 and provide a mediocre or satisfactory service. I’m making a big investment in my entire future and I want to get my money’s worth.”