Why student opinion should carry more weight than university credibility

 

The importance of the student voice has come under fire in recent weeks with poor turnouts reported in student union elections. The low turnouts might be an indicator of political apathy, but the opinionated nature of the student remains, which is a good omen for the future of university reviews.

Before you book a holiday on the Internet it’s almost second nature to search for reviews on Trip Advisor to make sure that you are getting the best deal. Before you purchase anything on Amazon you look at the reviews from people who have already bought the item to ensure it’s as good quality as claimed.

In consumer culture, we mistrust companies and the claims they make in their marketing campaigns. Consumers simply no longer believe the spiel companies use to promote their products or services, and trust for a brand is becoming rarer and rarer due to a greater consumer choice. A well written review has the ability to make or break a company; it represents a voice that we as consumers can trust. If used effectively, companies can greatly benefit from independent reviews.

But perhaps strangely, universities have thus far managed to avoid being sucked into the review culture. Students are expected to rely on the words of the universities rather than those of fellow students who have already experienced every aspect of student life. When I applied to university in 2008, I received a ton of prospectuses through the post and attended so many open days that I lost count. While the open days were, for me, the most effective way of being able to imagine what it would be like to study at the university, they didn’t come without their pitfalls. Being led around the campuses by smiley students and meeting with future lecturers was undoubtedly useful, but I couldn’t help but think that a lot of what I was hearing was a ruse. Obviously lecturers want you to study on their courses, and it is obviously in the university’s interest to recruit students.

It was hard to determine how much of the information was sugarcoated to make the university sound better than it actually is. This is where independent student reviews would’ve made a difference for me and I can’t help but wonder how many sixth formers are now in the same predicament.

The odd thing is, the reviews are already there for students to see. There a thousands of threads on The Student Room where former students will give advice to future and current students on anything from being a fresher to student finance. Whatuni also makes a big fuss of student reviews and will be announcing the winners of its Student Choice Awards next month.

These reviews are an important resource for sixth formers who appreciate an honest student opinion, especially when compared to the overly positive marketing messages that universities issue.

Holly Marquez, a sixth former from Winchmore School in Enfield agrees that reviews are useful: "Student reviews are one of the few ways we - as sixth form students - can actually find out what current students think about our prospective universities in an honest, personal way as they're becoming increasingly difficult to choose between."

Holly highlights a particular problem that is partly caused by the marketing campaigns that universities use. The abundance of prospectuses and information distributed at open days has made it more difficult for sixth formers to see differences between institutions.

This is a problem that is all too familiar for careers advisers like Juliet Lasslett. Finding ways to help sixth formers distinguish between universities is becoming harder and harder, but independent student reviews are seen as a vital tool.

"At EBP Kent, student reviews are a key tool to open discussion with young people about their chosen university. Reading the views of young people is like a refreshing reality check that no other marketing Information provides."

It’s clear that whilst many sixth formers may not be aware of the significance of student reviews, there is a real need to promote their importance. It’s also clear that producing traditional prospectuses is failing to distinguish one university from another, and sixth form students are finding it increasingly difficult to make their choices and trust everything that universities say.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Executive / Marketing Assistant

£18 - 23k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Executive / Assistant is n...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider to the fa...

Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Analyst - Global ERP Implementation - London

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most