Around one in three students in England, who are currently required to pay as much as £9,000 each year in tuition fees, say that their university degree represents supremely poor value for money, according to the findings of a recent study.
A survey conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) polled 15,046 students across England about their attitudes towards university, and compellingly found that they have only enjoyed a ten minute rise in the amount of time they get to spend with their lecturers- despite paying substantially more for their education since fees were raised in 2012.
The government has argued that students in England are ìquite rightî to expect more from their tutors considering that the new tuition fee system has necessitated that most have to pay as much as £9,000 each year.
The research also found that far more students in 2014 identified that their course represents poor value for money compared to two years ago- before tuition fees were nearly tripled.
One in three first and second year students polled in 2014 identified that they were being given poor value for money from their course, which is substantially higher than the equivalent figure of 18% back in 2012.
And just 36% of those polled said that they believed their course was giving them good value for their money, which is considerably lower than the 52% rate back in 2012.
However, this trend did not extend to Scotland, where a substantially higher 70% of Scottish university students polled said that their university course was providing them with good value for money.
It should be noted that Scottish students are not required to pay tuition fees at all in order to enter into higher education, though the findings suggest it is the severity in the costs of university nowadays that is creating apathy amongst students about their courses.
The Hepi/HEA report argued that regional differences in viewpoints of value for money are “not unexpected given that Scottish and other EU-domiciled students from outside the UK, who constitute the vast majority of students at Scottish institutions, effectively pay no fees”.
Universities must ëraise their gameí
When questioned about which three primary areas they would target institutional expenditure at, nearly half of the students polled identified ìreducing fee levelsî, with the next most cited areas being that a greater number of teaching hours are made available to students and tuition group sizes are reduced.
The study also revealed that 31% of university students said that they would either certainly or most likely have opted for a different course if they had a chance to choose again.
Compellingly, the survey also found that students in their first and second years of their undergraduate courses only spent an average of 14.2 hours at university lectures and seminars each week, and an average of just 14.3 hours on private study.
This is far less than the 40 hours a week of study suggested in the Quality Assurance Agency’s (QAA) guidelines, and implies that universities are not doing enough to engage their students and encourage them to participate more actively with their course.
The results also indicated that students miss around 9% of their lectures and seminars, with the primary reason given for poor attendance being that they donít find their lectures particularly helpful or that the lecture material can be accessed online.
Universities minister David Willetts said: “Young people are more serious about their education than ever before. Universities need to raise their game […] I don’t think universities are worse, but students have higher expectations, quite rightly.”
Mr Willets argued that universities will now have to do ìfar betterî than merely providing impersonal lectures to 500 students all crammed into one room taking lectures from power point presentations on a screen.
He added: “The days where the academic experience is simply sitting in rows with 500 other people taking notes from
slides on a screen that you can access online on your laptop, universities now have to do far better than that.”
Nick Hillman, director of Hepi, called on students to use the fact it is election year to lobby all the major government partyís to improve the educations system, so that they can begin to enjoy ëworld class teachingí alongside ëworld class researchí.
He said: “The data suggest growing differences across the UK. Students in Scotland generally think they are getting
good value for money.
“Meanwhile, students in England are paying much more but receiving only a little more. In England, one in three students say they are getting poor value for money – nearly twice as high as before the £9,000 fees were introduced.
“In this election year, students should press all the political parties to say what they will do to encourage universities to offer world-class teaching alongside their world-class research.”
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “The increase in fees in England and the shift away from public funding to higher graduate contributions means that students are clearly demanding more from their courses.
“The important thing is ensuring that students have enough information about their courses and that the experience matches their expectations.
“Due to the quality of its degrees, the UK has one the strongest and most highly respected higher education systems in the world.”