UK Students Now Expect Added Value to Their University Experience

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Young Academic has been made aware of a survey in which students around the United Kingdom have made it clear that they expect more from their Universities. Those going into education this coming academic year are rightly expecting to see something extra for their money following the scandalous fee rises imposed by David Cameron and his elitist government.

Indeed, over half demand improved academic facilities and better accommodation as well as a plethora of other advantages after being forced to find considerable sums of money in order to study at their institution of choice.

A new report released today has revealed that although increased tuition fees have not put students off going to university, the increased cost has substantially raised student expectations.

The UNITE Student Experience Report 2012, compiled by UNITE, the UK’s leading developer and manager of purpose-built student accommodation, and based on responses from over 1,200 students, has found that students are expecting improvements in all aspects of the university experience.

The report’s findings suggest that the task ahead for universities is how to balance increased student expectations with the realities of university education.

70 percent of students questioned said that the increase in fees has had no impact on their choice of university. However, with the increased cost comes increased expectations: over half of students surveyed (50.5 percent) expect academic facilities to improve; 42 percent expect accommodation to improve; and 39 percent think that university teaching staff will be more accessible. In addition, students are also expecting better social and sporting facilities (32 percent each).

The findings of the report show that the quality of education a university is able to provide is of paramount importance, with 80 percent of respondents stating that they are prepared to pay more if an institution has a good academic reputation.

In some cases, the report highlights a gap between students’ expectations from their time at university and the likely reality. With academic rigour top of students’ list of priorities, the responses showed high expectations of university lecturers, for example a significant amount of respondents expected “one-on-one learning” and for their teachers to be accessible whenever needed: “Lecturers and tutors who respond to emails quickly, are willing to offer support with essays, and who make it possible to see them in person.” Other expectations are clearly not always possible: “Teachers with years and years of experience and a wide range of previous job roles within their sector”.

The standard of accommodation and facilities is also important to today’s students. Whilst the majority of students demand their accommodation to be clean, modern and safe, a few are more discerning: the demand for en suite facilities is identifiable in students’ responses.

A significant minority of responses show that some students have specific requirements when it comes to accommodation: “Modern(ish), bright (makes all the difference), appropriate facilities in good condition (ie kitchen appliances, bathroom, etc), not sharing a bath / shower / toilet with more than two or three other people, feeling secure but not massively strict rules.” [sic]

Paul Harris, Group Director of Strategy and Corporate Relations at UNITE says: “With the rise in tuition fees, it’s understandable that students are demanding more from their university experience: they’re paying more for their time at university, and like most consumers, they associate higher costs with higher quality. We are committed to considering their expectations carefully, so that we may support HE institutions in adjusting to deal with increased demands.

“Even though our research has shown that today’s students are prioritising academic rigour over partying, expectations are equally high when it comes to the non-academic side of university life. Safe, clean and modern accommodation, as well as great sporting and social facilities, are hugely important to students.

“The challenge for all of us working in the sector is to find the critical balance in meeting raised expectations where appropriate, but also ensuring that students’ expectations are managed, and that they don’t arrive at university anticipating an experience that is entirely unrealistic.”

Rosie Shennan, an International Baccalaureate student at the Stephen Perse Sixth Form College, Cambridge says: “My main expectation from my time at university is a level of academic excellence. I’m really looking forward to being able to delve into one specific subject and being enthused and excited.

“I think the atmosphere will be very different to what I’ve experienced before, and I think there’ll be a sense of community, in relationships with both tutors and other students. And whilst I’m not expecting luxury living, I definitely want something that’s comfortable and not run-down! I hope to leave with a versatile and useful degree at the end of it!”

To keep tabs on this story, as well as all of your other student news and education news (not to forget the ever expanding festival guide) make sure Young Academic is  your site of choice this summer!

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