The majority (88%) of prospective students think that the Government should pay at least half of the costs of a degree, according to new research released today by QS.

The higher education insights company are calling for UK Government to work more closely with universities to ensure it communicates how new funding arrangements – potentially resulting from the Augar review - will represent value for money.

The research is released as part of the Domestic Student Survey 2019. The unique research seeks to understand the decision-making criteria that UK students consider when making choices about university.

Surveying over 1,700 prospective undergraduates the research found:

  • 88% of prospective students think that the Government should pay at least half the costs of teaching undergraduates (19.3% believe the Government should bear all the costs and students pay nothing; 47.8% believe students and the Government should both contribute, but the Government should pay more; 21.3% think there should be an equal split between the two, 9.4% think that the students should pay more; and 2.2% believed that students should pay most).
  • Prospective students want their tuition fees to be spent on improving course resources, work placements/career opportunities, student accommodation and course-content, and increasing one-to-one time available with teaching staff.
  • There is a strong interest from prospective students in the possibility of two-year, accelerated degrees as a means of achieving greater value for money. 57% claim they would be either very or somewhat interested.
  • There is a strong appetite for courses that offer opportunities to study abroad. 63% of respondents claimed that an option to study abroad would make them more likely to apply to a particular course.
  • Awareness of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) has grown slightly between 2018 and 2019, from 46% to 51%. However, three-quarters of students claim that neither TEF nor the way in which TEF results are calculated are well explained to them.
  • The financial pressure on students means that 17% of respondents are exclusively applying to universities close to their existing home, in order to save money on accommodation and the costs of travelling home while away.

To sustain and strengthen levels of domestic student recruitment in the UK, the Domestic Study Survey 2019 recommends an Action Plan for Domestic Student Recruitment in 2019.

Key points from the action plan include:

  • Now is the time for Government to work more closely with universities to ensure it communicates how new funding arrangements – potentially resulting from the Augar review - will represent value for money.
  • As the UK prepares to leave the EU, there should be an increased focus on international partnerships that provide opportunities to offer study abroad.
  • A diversity of student experiences should be communicated in marketing materials to ensure that both ‘commuter students’ and ‘movers’ feel catered to.
  • Whilst teaching quality is a well-known and established priority for prospective students there remains an opportunity to help prospective students increase their understanding and awareness of the TEF.
  • Prospective students lack clarity about what they will want to do after their degree, and this creates an opportunity for institutions – to add value by helping applicants plan beyond their degree.

Paul Raybould, Director of B2B Marketing & Market Intelligence at QS, said:

“With eighteen institutions inside the top one-hundred of QS’ World University Rankings, the UK’s higher education sector has a proven legacy of delivering high quality education and forms a vital part of our economy. The recommendations from the Government’s Augar review into post-18 education are due to be published imminently, and we have an opportunity to review higher education’s offer to students and how this is communicated. 

“It is crucial that the sector and Government listen to the views of students carefully and respond accordingly to ensure that any changes to the funding of higher education consider the impact on them. Our research suggests that now is the time for Government and the sector to work closely to ensure that new funding arrangements do not negatively impact prospective students’ perceptions of value for money - or else risk a drop in domestic applications. That’s why we’ve launched our action plan for Domestic Student Recruitment."

Andy Nicol, Managing Director at QS Enrolment Solutions, said:

“As a key partner to the sector, we at QS Enrolment Solutions will continue to play our part in providing key insights and services. We are pleased to be increasing our attention to strategic approaches to domestic student recruitment at a time when higher education in the UK is facing strategic hurdles, from the potential impact of Brexit to the Augar review.

“Given our finding that there is a high interest in courses that offer study abroad programmes amongst prospective UK students, we join Universities UK in encouraging the Government to commit to continue funding study abroad opportunities in the event of a no deal Brexit.”

QS conducted an online survey of domestic students in the UK. It was set up to provide a UK domestic equivalent of the International Student Survey. This will be the second year of the Domestic Student Survey, one of the most comprehensive surveys of prospective domestic students. It was created to provide a UK domestic equivalent of the International Student Survey, which in its 7 years has built a significant amount of insight into the interests and behaviours of students.

The survey received 1,700 responses and was conducted between November and December 2018. The majority of respondents were aged 16-18 (94%). It had a representative geographical spread with a focus on London and South East (39%) - concurrent with UCAS 2018 data which suggest 37% of applicants come from one of these two regions.

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