Student Lifestyle Trends (from around the world)

Stats from Sodexo’s Student Lifestyle Trends Survey asks: How does the UK student lifestyle compare to contemporaries worldwide?

Researching student lifestyle trends help universities to set their business up for success. From making choices of how to invest money to deciding which facilities to re-vamp. With the use of survey results you can make decisions which elevate your university from offering average lifestyle and facilitates, to leading in the race to provide students with a lifestyle that is up to date and on trend.

UCAS Media have introduced a Student Lifestyle Report which details what students think about buying technology for study, booking travel and how they choose key services. They also uncover how parents influence their decisions. It comes as a welcome support to any university looking to understand student lifestyle expectations. Key findings include:

Sodexo UK ’s first International University Student Lifestyle Trends Survey uncovered some incredible insight to help you make decisions at your institution. They have been conducting their Lifestyle Trends Survey biennially since April 2004, identifying and tracking trends in key non-academic areas of student university life as experienced by undergraduate students. For the first time, in response to a more global higher education sector, Sodexo conducted the survey on a worldwide basis, polling over 4,000 students in six countries (the US, China, India, Spain and Italy, as well as the UK).

6 Student Lifestyle Trends

Sodexo 2018 University Trends Report

The requirements, expectations, behaviours and demographics of students in higher education are evolving, as well as needs such as campus environment and facilities.

The Sodexo Institute for Quality of Life work with global higher education leaders to identify key trends that will shape the future of how universities evolve to meet the needs of the student experience.

Trend 1: Student Experience

You guessed it, student experience! UK students are more interested in the student experience and more likely to pick their university based on social and non-academic factors than their global contemporaries. It goes beyond the practice of delivering quality teaching and learning experiences, universities also need to task themselves with being able to support students to make the most of their degrees and studies. This includes ensuring facilities are fit for purpose, paying extra attention to student well-being, and providing students opportunities to widen their skills and study experiences allowing them to apply knowledge in real life situations.


Trend 2: Campus Facilities

The survey also uncovered the importance that all global students place on having an attractive and friendly campus, and revealed some common concerns – around value for money, managing stress and workload, and preparation for the workforce. Students also feel that having spaces to work collaboratively helps improve their motivation and concentration. Read our roundtable Q&A with Lee Cooper, Director at AMB facilities services, where we cover the key challenges and opportunities in facilities team management at today’s HE campuses in order to improve student lifestyle.

Trend 3: Attracting Students

One of the most striking differences between UK students and those around the world is the greater expectation of a good social experience. When asked to identify the factors that swayed their choice of university, 38% of UK students identified an ‘active social life/ good social facilities’, compared to only 32% globally.

When asked to name the most important factor in their final choice of university, the mostly commonly cited by UK students was a ‘good experience at open days’. This was very different to other countries – in the US the most important factor was ‘financial support available’, for Indian students ‘IT, library/ study facilities’ and for Spanish and Italian students, ‘ability to live at home’ – and highlights the importance of UK universities investing in marketing and creating strong impressions on potential applicants. This applies equally to social media and digital marketing. When researching their choice of university, 83% of UK students stated that they had been influenced by internet research, and this was considered more important than official rankings and advice or guidance from parents, teachers or friends.

Overall, when looking at non-academic factors, students globally wanted to see an attractive campus (37%) and the most popular services that students were looking for included good IT/library (38%) and study facilities and good social facilities (32%).

Paul Anstey, CEO for Sodexo Universities for UK and Ireland, Benelux and Nordic Regions, said: “In an age when we are increasingly seeing digital learning, it’s good to hear that students are still interested in the physical campus and want to see great social and learning spaces. The challenge for service companies like Sodexo is to support universities’ estates strategies as they seek to offer more fluid and flexible spaces, where students can come together to learn, collaborate and socialise.”

Student Lifestyle Trends Results

Trend 4: Accommodation in the UK compares well

UK students have high expectations for their accommodation, but the survey revealed that across a broad suite of services they are well-served. Seventy four per cent of students were satisfied with their living arrangements, compared to 72% globally. Sixty six per cent had security, compared to 58%; 48% had an en suite, compared to 42%; and 39% had social space (a café or bar), compared to 32%. Unsurprisingly, the accommodation service considered most important for students, and even more so for UK students than their global counterparts, was Wi-Fi (79% of UK students cited it, compared to 64% globally).

Stresses and strains: mental health issues more prevalent amongst UK students. The survey revealed some interesting differences between students in different countries in terms of their main worries and concerns. Over a quarter of UK students (27%) stated that making new friends was the biggest thing they had to overcome in their first month at university, compared to only 17% of students worldwide. Almost half of UK students (47%) stated that they had suffered loneliness at university, compared to only a third (32%) of global students.

The UK had the highest number of students who had considered dropping out (37%). Of those students, the reason most often cited was study-related problems, but the second largest reason was health or mental health problems, referenced by 42% of students. And when asked what type of life skills students might like to see, to support their academic studies, UK students were more interested in learning to deal with stress (48% wanted this), more than money management or careers advice.

Paul Anstey commented: “In our Student Living by Sodexo accommodation business the focus is very much on creating a supportive, home-from-home environment. Our teams are trained to provide support to students and importantly to signpost them to the right university pastoral services if we can see that a student is finding life hard.”

In an age when we are increasingly seeing digital learning, it’s good to hear that students are still interested in the physical campus and want to see great social and learning spaces


Trend 5: Finances and value for money

Interestingly, given the recent rise in fees at English universities, UK students were less concerned about day-to-day finances than their contemporaries. In the UK 30% expressed concern, compared to 40% globally, 51% of Indian students and 48% of US students. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, English students are going to leave with more debts than any other country in the developed world (£50,800 after interest rates are raised on student loans to 6.1%), but the UK’s loan system clearly means that worries about these costs are delayed until after graduation.

UK students were, however, critical about value for money. Only 42% thought that university offered value for money, which roughly tallies with the Higher Education Policy Institute student satisfaction survey (which has found only 35% rating their university experience as “good” or “very good” value). More students in China, India and the US thought their course was good value for money, 67%, 55% and 52% respectively, whilst, Italian and Spanish students were even less impressed than their UK counterparts (37% and 29% respectively).

The survey found that perception of value for money was much more closely aligned with satisfaction levels, than with the actual cost of university. Students in Italy and Spain who pay less for higher education perceived lower value for money, but also had lower overall satisfaction levels with university life. This reflects the need for universities to focus on student satisfaction and overall experience, which, of course, has been front of mind for UK universities in view of the National Student Survey and Teaching Excellence Framework.


Trend 6: Careers and outcomes

Compared to students worldwide, UK students are less focused on careers. Forty six per cent of UK students stated that they knew what job they wanted to do following graduation, which was the smallest percentage of any country’s student population. Asian students were the most focused on the end goal; 66% of Indian students and 60% of Chinese students had a career plan. Asian students were also the most likely to have completed an internship to help them progress into employment. Sixty seven per cent of Chinese students had done so, compared to a much smaller 21% of UK students.

Anstey concluded: “Across the globe Sodexo partners with more than 1,000 universities in 32 countries to deliver services which improve students’ quality of life and help our clients meet their strategic and financial objectives. To do this effectively, it is critical we continuously listen to students, explore best practice worldwide and share our insights with clients and stakeholders, so we can, with them, enhance every step of the student journey – from students’ choice of university to their departure to the professional world.”


UCAS Media Student Lifestyle

Introducing UCAS Media’s 2018 student lifestyle report – a snapshot of the current student views from booking travel, buying tech, and how they feel parent’s influence key product purchase decisions.


What’s in v.s. What’s out?

MyUnidays – In 2017 tthe most popular student discount site was Unidays, receiving a 87% increase in traffic
Snapchat/Instagram – continuously popular over the last 3 years with 73% of students using the platforms
Netflix – named the most popular entertainment service, 72% of students have a subscription, doubling figures from 2016
Apple iPhone – remains the most trusted smartphone brand, with two thirds of students owning one
BT/Virgin/Sky – entertainment providers have a struggling run with students, however the small market has risen to 20% (Sky) since ’17.

Pay as you go – has almost halved since 2016, with the most popular market being overseas students (12%)
Tumblr – student increase on social media sites as continued the decline for Tumblr, only 11% regularly use the site
Opening a student account in branch – Whilst 62% of students still open accounts, in 2017 there was a 10% increase doing it online
Facebook – Whilst this site remains one of the most popular social platforms, it is in decline with only 83% student usage

Student Engagement

In this day and age of the tech-savvy student, this demographic are comfortable with the idea of advertising influencing their purchase making decisions. However, they feel most influenced when brands offer personalised experiences to fit their purchasing needs.
Brand loyalty is most prevalent in the tech sector. 50% of students either currently use a specific brand for their tech purchases or are likely to use multiple trusted brands, making the tech market a considerable place for opportunity. Fashion and retail brands, are the second biggest brand loyal sector with 80% of students regularly shopping with one brand, and are likely to recommend the site to a friend.

Recent figures show that 79% of students prefer to be contacted via email for offers and new products. As it is now so easy to access emails on smartphones and laptops, email marketing is a vital aspect of a businesses marketing strategy. Mobile optimised marketing messages received a 4.1% increase in engagement, as students open emails within first instance of being notified. In the study, 53% of students reported they check their emails first thing when they wake up in the morning and another 70% check them when they’re bored.

The second most popular channel to target students with offers and product info was post. With 69% reporting that they enjoy receiving free samples and discounts. Despite the significant time students are known to spend online and smartphones each day, there is still a market for instore shopping, postal freebies and offers allow students to redeem these instore and online.

Social Connection

This has been the second year running for Snapchat and Instagram in terms of growth, their student base is bigger than ever. Facebook has still managed to retain the top spot despite an overall decline in its usage and market share, yet they are still chosen over other social media sites by students.

Facebook – remains as the most popular platform, students still opting for this over other sites

Instagram & Snapchat – the fastest growing platforms for students, up 20% over three years

WhatsApp – growth came to a halt in 2017. Only London based students chose the messaging app over other apps if they could only have 1

Twitter – student usage remains continuous with 42% of users being 18-19

Other leading sites chosen by students included Tinder (9% of users are students), Reddit was seen significantly more popular for male students (18% males, 3% females) and surprisingly a site not mentioned in this years trend report but is deemed second most popular year-on-year with students when comparing to social media is, YouTube, 80% of students spend a large majority of their time on the platform.

To continue reading this report, click here.


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