Nick Hillman, Director, HEPI

The @HEPI-news / Advance HE Student Academic Experience Survey is 15 years old this year. It began on the initiative of HEPI’s founder and now President, Bahram Bekhradnia, as a way of tracking changing perceptions at a time of rising fees.

Back in 2006, the year the project was born, fees were in the process of being tripled in England to £3,000. The first iteration of the Survey was conducted by HEPI and one of Advance HE’s predecessor bodies (the Higher Education Academy) in spring 2006, just before the higher fees came in.

Since then, we have been able to build up a robust picture of student life under different fees and funding regimes, across the UK and for both home and international students.

As I note in my Foreword to this year’s Survey, the project has really come into its own this year. When we published it last year, COVID-19 was already having an impact but the fieldwork had been partially conducted before it had been declared a ‘pandemic’. At the time, there was a general hope that the impact would be modest, rather than both huge and spread across different academic years.

So this year’s Survey by Jonathan Neves (Advance HE) and Rachel Hewitt (HEPI), with fieldwork by YouthSight, is the first one to reflect properly on student life while the whole world is in turmoil.

Collecting representative opinion poll data in this way is one recognised way of capturing the student voice. But alongside the many quantitative results on issues like value-for-money perceptions, we have made more use this year of the ‘free text’ comments that students provide through the Survey. These provide more colour and help enrich our understanding of exactly why so many students feel they have received poor value over the past year.

The Survey is widely read inside higher education institutions – and rightly so, given it reveals what institutions need to do to improve student life as well as shedding light on what they are perceived to be doing well. (Many like to pore over their own institutions’ data, which – with appropriate data protections in place – Advance HE and HEPI can make available.)

One particular finding that managers are likely to take note of this year is the huge desire among students to get back to ‘mostly’ face-to-face teaching.

It is a cliché to say that the future is blended but, like many clichés, it is probably true. Yet it would be easy to get the blended balance wrong, at least for the full-time undergraduates who make up our respondents, for example by providing too much online-only provision and insufficient face-to-face teaching.

We have written elsewhere about how learning is for many people a social endeavour and successful edtech tends to recognise that. Another finding institutions need to address is students’ concerns about feedback, which have never been universally positive but which have deteriorated further in some respects during the crisis.

Listening to students is vitally important, but so – of course – is listening to staff and responding to students often means putting more pressures on staff, which are already immense. This has been a regular theme in HEPI’s work in recent years. So another important lesson for institutions is to ensure they have sufficient staff, with the right skills, to respond to what students are telling us.

The Survey is also widely read within the corridors of power and perhaps the most striking finding of all this year is an apparent mismatch between students’ opinions and the wider political conversation. To take two examples:

  1. while the wider political debate tends to focus on tuition costs more than living costs, we see far more students care a lot about the latter; and
  2. while the wider political debate tends to focus on the proportion of graduates in 'graduate-level jobs', we find just half of students see this as their post-study goal, which is a useful reminder that people enrol in education for a wide range of valid reasons.

Above all, the value of the Survey comes from the mix of longitudinal data, which allows comparisons over time (including for years when the wider environment is changing fast) and the influx each year of brand new questions on particularly topical issues. That has never been truer than it is this year.

Topics on which we dive more deeply this year include racial inequality (pages 32 to 34), student representation (page 36) and living costs (pages 53 to 54). In the accompanying analysis, there is also more focus on students’ characteristics, with – for example – a brighter spotlight shone on trans students and privately-educated students.

Later this morning, thanks to sponsorship from Lloyds Bank and UPP, the HEPI Annual Conference will be taking place, and we expect it to be bigger and better than in the past after a year’s pandemic-related hiatus. As well as hearing from the two authors of the new Survey, we will hear from:

  • the Secretary of State for Education – the Rt Hon. Gavin Williamson;
  • the Chief Executive of the Office for Students – Nicola Dandridge;
  • a panel of sector leaders – Rama Thirunamachandran, Shirley Pearce, Bobby Duffy and Sunday Blake
  • an expert in crisis management – Donald Steel; and
  • a new Vice-Chancellor who has entered the sector after very senior roles in politics and the media – the Rt Hon. James Purnell.

No doubt they too will have lots to say on the findings.

Nick Hillman, Director, HEPI

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 10 hours 31 minutes ago

RT @FENews: Committed to mental health – University Centre Leeds becomes early adopter of new charter: University Centre Leeds (@UniCentreL…
View Original Tweet

Alicia has published a new article: Teachers: Our Unsung Heroes of 2021 12 hours 41 minutes ago
william bradley commented on The Importance of Social-Emotional Learning with At-Risk Students 15 hours 19 minutes ago

SEL is helpful to both children and adults, increasing self-awareness,...

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page