Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

More English Think Degree Is Poor Value for Money

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

More English Think Degree Is Poor Value for Money

Article excerpt

Contact hours and delays in feedback loom large in Hepi-HEA survey. Chris Havergal reports

The proportion of English undergraduates telling a major survey that their degree was poor value for money has exceeded the proportion who felt it was good value for the first time, with concerns focusing on low contact hours and delays in returning assignments.

The annual student academic experience survey conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute and the Higher Education Academy found that 35 per cent of English-domiciled respondents believed that their time at university had been poor or very poor value for money, with the 1 percentage point increase on last year continuing a trend that has been evident since the raising of the tuition fee cap to £9,000 in 2012.

Thirty-three per cent of English undergraduates said they felt that they had received good or very good value, down from 35 per cent in 2015.

This year's survey is the first in which almost all student participants will have taken their courses under the £9,000 fee regime.

The findings emerge as ministers consider increasing the fee cap beyond £9,000, in line with inflation, for English institutions that perform well in the forthcoming teaching excellence framework.

But the survey, based on the responses of 15,221 undergraduates, found that students at universities across the UK felt that value for money was getting worse, even if they did not have to pay £9,000 fees.

The UK-wide proportion of students who felt that they received good value stood at 37 per cent this year, down three percentage points year-on-year and hovering five percentage points above the proportion who felt that they received poor value.

Students at specialist and Russell Group institutions were most likely to feel that they received good value (42 and 40 per cent, respectively), while those at post-92 universities were least likely to believe this (34 per cent).

The survey found that only 8 per cent of respondents supported the Westminster government's plan to allow universities deemed to provide excellent teaching to raise their fees in line with inflation, with 86 per cent opposed. As their preferred way for institutions to save money, nearly half of all respondents named spending less on buildings and sport or social facilities, with one in five saying that giving academics less time for research or lower salaries would be a good option.

However, little more than one in five students (22 per cent) now believes that the government should pay the full cost of their higher education.

Sorana Vieru, the vice-president (higher education) of the National Union of Students, said that the government should stop "heaping more debt on to students".

"The Hepi-HEA survey provides us with yet more evidence against the previous coalition government's argument that raising tuition fees would result in improving the student experience, while sky-high tuition fees are fuelling a continued decline in student perceptions of their degree's value," Ms Vieru said. "The results show that there is absolutely no justification for raising tuition fees further, and doing so will be hugely damaging to students and to the future of higher education."

Overall, 85 per cent of students questioned said that they were satisfied with their university experience, down from 87 per cent last year.

However, perceptions of value for money appeared to be dragged down by concerns about limited contact hours. The survey found that UK students had an average of 13 and a half contact hours each week, but that 29 per cent had nine or fewer. …

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