Hepi survey highlights wide disparity in contact hours

Students’ hours of study can vary by up to 25 hours a week depending on their course, a survey of undergraduates has found.

May 21, 2014

But commonly cited reasons for students not receiving their allotted contact hours include “couldn’t be bothered to attend”, finds the Higher Education Policy Institute’s Student Academic Experience Survey, published today in partnership with the Higher Education Academy.

Overall, 86 per cent of students questioned declared themselves fairly or very satisfied with their course.

The survey, based on responses from 15,000 UK undergraduates, also looks at students’ views of value for money, and finds that in England, 33.1 per cent of first- and second-year students “now believe they have received poor or very poor value for money, compared with 18.3 per cent in 2012”.

Asked to give their top three priorities for institutional expenditure, 48 per cent of students said “reducing fee levels” – a proportion that rose to 55 per cent among first and second years in England.

On contact hours, the survey finds that “students in disciplines allied to medicine study for 50.9 hours a week on average, while students on courses in mass communications and documentation study for an average of 26.7 hours a week”.

“Undergraduate students in their first and second years have an average of 14.2 contact hours per week during term time and complete another 14.3 hours of private study on top,” the survey adds.

It finds that “those with between 0 and 9 contact hours are notably less satisfied than those with between 20 and 29 contact hours. Levels of satisfaction decrease above this level, perhaps because other activities can become squeezed.”

Nick Hillman, Hepi director, said the survey “poses vital questions for universities, students and government”.

He added: “Student satisfaction remains high, which should be celebrated. But over the years, Hepi has built up a consistent picture of some students at British universities working less hard than the guidelines suggest. Higher education is a partnership between institutions and students. There is an onus on both parties to ensure the experience is as rewarding as possible but only sometimes is that happening.”

The survey also found that the scheduled contact time for undergraduates across all years (13.1 hours per week on average) was greater than the contact actually experienced (11.9 hours per week).

When asked for reasons why they attended fewer hours than timetabled, the most common reason cited by students was “I didn’t find these lectures very useful” (cited by 50 per cent), followed by “I didn’t feel that I needed to go because I could get the notes online” (40 per cent), “I was ill” (31 per cent) and “I couldn’t be bothered to attend” (31 per cent).

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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