Most students believe they don't get value for money at university, says survey


The days of traditional university lectures may be over as new research shows students are boycotting them because they believe they can get all the information they need on the net.

The finding emerges from a survey of 15,000 students which shows a large majority of those attending English universities no longer believe they get good value for money from their courses now fees are £9,000 a year.

The number saying they are getting “poor” or “very poor” value has also almost doubled during the past two years since the new fees came in, from 18.3 per cent to 33.1 per cent.

The survey, published jointly by the think-tanks the Higher Education Policy Institute and the Higher Education Academy, shows only 41 per cent at English universities rate their courses as good value compared with 70 per cent in Scotland, where home residents do not have to pay fees.

It found that one of the reasons for poor value was that students no longer found their lectures “very useful”. Of those who skipped them, 40 per cent gave as the reason as “didn’t feel I needed to go because I could get the results online”.

Almost one in three (31 per cent) believed they may be on the wrong course, saying that, if they had their time again, they would definitely or might consider switching to a new course. The research recommends that universities should make it easier for students to switch courses mid-study.

The survey also showed that students were only getting 10 more minutes a week contact time with their lecturers on average since the tripling of fees.

In addition, the number of hours spent studying ranged from 26.7 hours a week - on mass communications and documentation courses - to just over 50 hours on medicine.

Overall, the average study time is 29.5 hours a week, less than three quarters of that recommended in guidelines by standards watchdog the Quality Assurance Agency. The figure, though, is on increase on previous years.

Universities Minister David Willetts said the research showed universities were beginning to take action to provide better quality teaching for students but students but added: “It is not enough and there is still more to do.”

He criticised the traditional lecture, saying the days of lecturers dictating notes to a room full of hundreds of students were numbered.

“It may be some lecturers are still providing the information that the students can get online and they’re not providing the opportunity for challenge and debate after you’ve accessed the material,” he added.

Nick Hillman, director of HEPI, said: “The data suggest growing differences across the UK. Students in Scotland generally think they are getting good value for money. Meanwhile, students in England are paying much more but only receiving a little more.”

Sonia Sodha, head of public services policy for the consumer organisation Which?, added: “Students have the right to expect a high quality experience for their investment but with an increasing number thinking their course is poor value for money - and many saying they might have picked a different one - it’s clear this is not always the case.

“A key problem is a lack of information that makes it difficult for students to make a fully informed case.”

The report concluded: “More needs to be done either to make the sessions more useful or to convey to students why they are useful.

“The 40 per cent who cited availability of lecture notes online as a reason for non-attendance suggests there is a need for institutions both to ensure and convey the value of active participation in taught sessions.”