Most students do not see university as value for money

Although many students praise aspects of their university experience, the majority are still unhappy about what they get in return for fees

March 10, 2016
Unhappy male student looking at laptop

Most undergraduates do not believe that their university degree is value for money, a survey suggests.

Asked whether their course was worth the cost, some 53 per cent of students polled for the 2016 Sodexo University Lifestyle Survey, published on 10 March, said that it was not.

Discontent with the cost of the university experience was even higher among female students, with 57 per cent saying that they were not satisfied with university in terms of the costs they incurred compared with 49 per cent of male students.

Those students who have 10 or fewer contact hours a week are also more likely to be dissatisfied, with 57 per cent unhappy about value for money, compared with just 44 per cent of those with more contact hours, according to the report, based on a poll of just over 2,000 students.

However, students were slightly more positive when asked to think about their outlay on their degree in terms of its long-term career benefits.

Some 53 per cent felt that their expenditure on university study would be worthwhile in the long run, although 40 per cent did not – up from 18 per cent in 2012 prior to the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees. There were also varying views according to the subject studied (see graph below).

Is debt level acceptable?

Is debt level acceptable?

Those in the second and third years of university tend to be more gloomy about debt: 43 per cent did not think that their expected debt level was acceptable in career terms compared with 33 per cent for first-year students.

Despite this high level of dissatisfaction, just a third of undergraduates (34 per cent) quizzed by the polling firm YouthSight on behalf of the catering and service provider Sodexo were unhappy with the level of contact hours they received, with 59 per cent saying that they had enough lectures and lessons.

Indeed, some 85 per cent said that they were broadly satisfied in academic and social terms with their quality of life at university, with just 8 per cent saying that they are unhappy about their lifestyle.

On the academic side, satisfactions were also high, with 70 per cent of students viewing their course in a positive light, while 74 per cent were happy with the state of their campus.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that his organisation’s own studies had also observed how the perception of value for money offered by universities had deteriorated even though institutions generally did very well on most student indicators.

“Universities are not offering students a detailed explanation of where fee income is spent, which might explain why the perception of value for money has deteriorated even while satisfaction ratings remain high,” said Mr Hillman.

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Print headline: University lifestyle survey: degrees not value for money but majority of students still willing to accept debt

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