More than half of graduates who responded to a survey conducted by the National Union of Students said that they did not think their degree was worth the tuition fees they were charged.
Fifty-six per cent of the UK university leavers, who graduated this summer as part of the first cohort to be charged up to £9,000 annually, said that they did not think their degree represented good value for money.
Of these, 17 per cent believed their degree was worth “considerably less” than the fees they were charged. A further 41 per cent of students felt that their degree was worth the cost.
One in 20 graduates who took part in the survey said that, if they could go back, they would not have gone to university at all.
The majority of the 664 respondents to the survey who expressed that view said that it was high fees that had made their course bad value, rather than there being anything wrong with the quality of provision.
Graduates of arts subjects were more likely to believe that their course was not good value, with 70 per cent of them saying that they did not think it was worth the fees.
The findings contrast with the results of the National Student Survey, which found that 86 per cent of UK university leavers were satisfied with their experience.
The NSS, which had more than 300,000 responses, suggested that the introduction of higher fees in 2012 had not dented satisfaction, since this figure was unchanged from last year.
Sorana Vieru, the NUS vice-president (higher education), said the government should take note of students’ “real concerns”.
“Graduates are rightfully worried about their future, not only in terms of finding a graduate job, but also in how their finances will be affected by larger debts that the majority will be repaying until they are in their 50s,” Ms Vieru said. “These results show how the myth of consumer empowerment is being questioned by graduates who, on reflection, are able to see that the quality of the student experience is not linked to an increase in tuition fees.”
The NUS study found that 77 per cent of respondents were worried or very worried about their student debt, and that 43 per cent believed that their standard of living would be affected by what they owed for their studies. Only 45 per cent of respondents expected to repay their debt in full.
The survey also suggested that some students might be put off from going to university by the government’s decision to scrap maintenance grants and switch support to loans from 2016-17.
Seven per cent of graduates who had received maintenance grants said that they had almost not gone to university because of the cost, compared to 12 per cent of students who did not receive grants.