UK students spending less time studying, says survey

Less than half of undergraduates now spend 11 or more hours a week in classes, according to Advance HE study

October 31, 2019
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Students at UK universities are continuing to spend less time studying in and out of class, according to a major study.

The UK Engagement Survey 2019, conducted by Advance HE and based on the responses of 29,784 undergraduates at 31 institutions, found that just 44 per cent said that they spent 11 or more hours a week studying independently. This compares with 47 per cent last year and 52 per cent in 2016.

The proportion of students spending 11 or more hours in classes each week dropped to 46 per cent, from 50 per cent last year and 55 per cent in 2016, according to results published on 31 October.

In previous years the decline in study time has been attributed to an increase in the share of students working for pay during term time, but this figure remained stable this year at 53 per cent.

However, the share of students participating in societies and sports has increased slightly to 53 per cent, from 52 per cent last year, reversing earlier declines.

Students engaging in these activities report higher levels of development of career and analytical skills, according to the report. Meanwhile, students who spend more time studying independently are more likely to report developing innovation, speaking, writing and critical thinking skills.

For the first time this year the study asked whether students had considered leaving their course. More than a quarter (27 per cent) had done so but students who had taken part in sports and societies were significantly less likely to have thought about dropping out (22 per cent versus 32 per cent).

Jonathan Neves, head of business intelligence and surveys at Advance HE and author of the report, said that “the decline in independent learning is a concern” given that it has “links to a wide range of skills which help students develop in a rounded way”.

“We can speculate as to the reasons behind this, but a high frequency of working for pay, together with a decline in recognition of the benefits, may be contributing to students being less able to prioritise their time in this way,” he said.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

And there has also been a trend to reduce assessment load throughout the sector. This may be a cause. Either way English students now pay the highest fees in Europe, study the fewest hours and are therefore perfectly qualified for the workforce with some of the lowest rates of productivity amongst high income countries.
What it also supports is the age old idea of "A healthy Mind in a Healthy Body". For those that do 11 hours of independent study, plus 11 hours of attendance at taught modules, a total of 22 hours, plus possibly more than 20 hours of work, indicates they have a busy week. Knowing how many hours they work a week would be helpful. Perhaps some are working too hard?

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