Only one in three students think their tuition fees are good value for money, survey suggests


Only one in three students think their tuition fees are good value for money, a new report shows. 

Students become less confident about repaying their tuition fees and maintenance loans back as they get closer to joining the workplace, research from the Office for Students (OfS) reveals. 

Just over half of students (54 per cent) think their investment in higher education is worthwhile, according to a survey led by students’ unions for the new universities regulator. 

A majority of students (62 per cent) do not agree that their tuition fees are good value for money.

But student satisfaction with tuition fees varied depending on the degree – with more than half (53 per cent) of computer science students saying they thought their course was good value for money, compared to just a quarter (26 per cent) of historical and philosophical students. 

The survey – of more than 6,000 students, recent graduates and school leavers – has been published just weeks after the Government announced its long-awaited review of university funding.

Theresa May admitted that allowing universities to charge variable tuition fees – up to £9,250 a year – had left Britain with “one of the most expensive systems” in the world.

The review is expected to cut or freeze tuition fees – as well as the contentious issue of interest on loan repayments, which stand at up to 6.1 per cent.

Nearly half of school leavers are confident about repaying tuition fee and maintenance loans, the survey from OfS reveals, compared to 27 per cent of recent graduates. 

Students who took part in the survey called the £9,000 a year tuition fees a “rip off” and some said they would be paying off the debt for the rest of their lives.

One wrote: “£33.40 per hour and I do 600 hours of semester of self-study time. Could’ve just got a part time job and a library card, but I wouldn’t have the piece of paper which says I can do it.”

Another said: “International students are being used as cash cows to support a big chunk of the university’s operational costs – but we were never given additional support to integrate into the local community, nor guidance on how to access local healthcare services.”

A quarter of students surveyed said they did not believe they were told about how much everything would cost as a student – including accommodation, books and extracurricular activities.

A student wrote: ‘We are required to print a lot of A3 pages, multiple times a year for presentations and hand-ins. We also need to buy our own equipment and materials for model making. 

“Furthermore, we have yearly international study trips which are also very over-priced. If we were to pay for the exact same trip ourselves, it usually works out to be roughly half the price that we pay to the university. 

“This all adds up to be fairly expensive and can put students with lower incomes at a disadvantage to their classmates, as they miss opportunities and can’t produce work to the best of their ability.”

Two-thirds (67 per cent) of privately educated students said they were ‘informed and prepared’ about costs before going to university, while only 58 per cent of state school students were.

The OfS is aiming to give students more information on how universities spend their tuition fees.

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of the OfS, said: “As I have found when meeting with students at universities and colleges all over the country, different students will understand different things by the expression value for money – and the survey shows this to be the case. 

“The results of this research show that students particularly prioritise high quality teaching, helpful feedback and good learning resources. Securing a good graduate job and salary are also important, as well as transparency about how fees are spent and other costs that students may incur.”

She added: “Higher education providers should carefully consider the findings from this report and consider how they can improve transparency and clarity about fees and the cost of going to university, and most of all how they can ensure that every student has a fulfilling experience of higher education which can enrich their lives and careers.” 

A Universities UK (UUK) spokesperson said: “Students rightly expect universities to provide a high-quality education and, as the annual National Student Survey consistently shows, overall student satisfaction is high.

“Universities will not be surprised that there are multiple factors influencing a student’s perspective of value for money, including their experience on the course, living costs and their understanding of the student finance system.

“We know that students value a personalised and collaborative relationship with their university, rather than a superficial consumer transaction. It’s therefore important that universities work in partnership with students to further improve the learning experience they offer.”

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