‘Debt for life’: only 38% of students say tuition fees are good value

‘Debt for life’: only 38% of students say tuition fees are good value

Little more than a third of students believe their university course represents good value for money, according to research by the government’s new regulator for the higher education sector.

The survey of almost 6,000 students by the newly-established Office for Students(OfS) will add to concerns about the cost of going to university and the value for money it represents.

Just 38% of those surveyed either mostly or definitely agreed with the statement: “The tuition fee for my course represents/represented good value for money”; 44% mostly or definitely disagreed. A further 8% neither agreed nor disagreed.

Asked to explain their views on value for money, one student said: “I expected to have at least a weekly tutorial every week before I came to university but that isn’t the case. The excess and waste of the university with regards to spending is obvious so I can only assume a tiny fraction of the tuition fee actually goes towards tuition.”

Another said: “£9,000 a year for a degree, are you joking? The library was always overcrowded with half the amount of plug sockets for the number of seats. I will be paying this off for the rest of my life.”

Almost a quarter (24%) of those surveyed did not feel properly informed about the additional costs of going to university, on top of tuition fees.

They called for more transparency about how their £9,250 annual tuition fees were spent, and more information about additional costs including accommodation, books and extracurricular activities such as field trips.

Just over half (54%) thought their overall investment in higher education was good value for money, with quality of teaching, learning resources and feedback key factors in assessing value for money.

Students were also asked about their views on using tuition fees to cross-subsidise their insitutiton. The research found they felt least comfortable with their tuition fees funding teaching on other courses, followed by wider research unrelated to their course and paying for management costs.

The survey, which was carried out among graduates and school leavers as well as current students, comes at a time of increased uncertainty about the funding of higher education.

Nicola Dandridge, the OfS’s chief executive, said: “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.”

Les Ebdon, the head of the Office for Fair Access, said it was shocking that nearly a quarter of students did not feel properly informed about the additional costs of going to university.

“These costs can be very substantial, particularly for those who do not have ‘the bank of mum and dad’ to help out and have to find the extra money themselves,” he said.

“This research provides further evidence of the need for universities and colleges to give clear, accurate information, advice and guidance to people considering study so that they know what to expect.”