Learning gap between schools and HE

Students do not feel prepared for the style of learning they will encounter at university, according to new survey

In a recent survey, nearly two in three students (61%) admitted that they do not feel completely prepared for the style of learning they will encounter at university. The Student Futures Survey – commissioned by UK online course provider, FutureLearn, points to a learning gap between school and university study.

FutureLearn has been working with schools to understand how its free online courses can support students and teachers, inspire independent learning and help to bridge learning gaps that develop between the different styles of learning from school to university.

The survey polled 1,000 16 to 18-year-olds about their aspirations for university and beyond.

A high proportion of respondents (61%) felt unprepared for university learning, which points to a learning gap between school and higher education. Around one third (30%) were anxious about their choice of course or university, worrying that they wouldn’t like it once they started.

Coding and software development tops students’ career aspirations, with traditional professions taking a back seat. The survey found that 23% of students expressed an interest in a career in coding. A role in the medical profession comes a close second at 22%, whilst 16% are attracted to law and to marketing, with 15% selecting forensic science as a potential career goal.

The financial turbulence brought on by the global financial crisis along with the rise in tuition fees has shaped students’ motivations. Half of those going to university are concerned about covering their basic financial requirements and having enough money to live on. A further 35% felt worried about paying back fees, although only 17% felt pessimistic about their job opportunities once they complete their studies. For today’s students, the earning potential of a job was the most important consideration in a career choice, cited by 52% of respondents, ahead of interesting work (50%), work/life balance (45%) or working to benefit a cause.

Only a third (30%) were worried about how many friends they’d make at university, and a mere 8% worried about meeting a girlfriend or boyfriend.  However, at 40%, many of those polled said that their biggest concern was getting good grades, indicating that they took their studies seriously. 

FutureLearn’s Head of Strategy and Insight, Kathryn Skelton, said: ‘It’s great to see that today’s students take their university education seriously, but anxieties about their study abilities – with almost two-thirds saying they don’t feel prepared for higher education style learning – indicates they need a helping hand with the transition from school to university. FutureLearn’s portfolio of free, online courses from some of the best universities in the UK and internationally helps students to develop skills in self-directed study, and gives them a taster of the fascinating topics they can cover at university.’ 

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