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New QS report highlights what universities can do to ease cost-of-living crisis concerns of students and be more sustainable

A new report from QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the world’s leading provider of services, analytics and insights to the global higher education (HE) sector, highlights the growing concerns surrounding universities being environmentally sustainable and constraints of prospective domestic students due to the cost-of-living crisis.

The Domestic Student Survey (DSS) report found:

  • Nearly all (95%) of the students surveyed think that universities could do more to be environmentally sustainable, whilst 55% think they are environmentally friendly.
  • Nearly a third (32%) of candidates are extremely or very concerned about cost of living and paying for day-to-day expenses whilst at university.
  • Over a third (38%) of candidates are less likely to attend university because of the costs involved, a 4% increase on the findings in the 2021 DSS.

The DSS, now in its fifth year, draws on responses from 3,371 prospective students and recommends that institutions tackle these concerns by allocating adequate resource to support their student populations, alleviating financial pressures and demonstrating the value of a university education, as well as being more environmentally responsible. Responses from students suggest that improving course facilities and work placement opportunities are two of the highest priority areas for additional investment.

Other recommendations in the report focus on how to best support the UK’s domestic student population, providing solutions to tackle long-term sectoral issues such as student’s mental health as well as the future of hybrid learning. For both, universities need to effectively engage with students, showing compassion and understanding, while demonstrating the practical steps they are taking to improve the student experience. 

The report also includes recommendations for institutions on environmental and social responsibilities and building awareness of post-Brexit opportunities such as the Government’s Turing Scheme.  

Other key findings from the report include:  

  • Over a third (35%) of domestic students would be uncomfortable asking a university for support with their mental wellbeing.
  • Under a quarter (23%) of candidates think that universities are well prepared to support students with their mental health, a 10% decline compared to the 2020 DSS.
  • Nearly two-thirds (59%) of candidates claim that discounts on student accommodation are the most effective incentive a university could offer.
  • Less than a fifth (15%) of candidates are aware of the newly created Turing Scheme, but this is an increase compared to only 12% in 2021’s survey and Over half (51%) of candidates would be interested in taking part in the scheme, representing a 7% increase compared to 2021.

Speaking about this year’s report, Founder and President at QS, Nunzio Quacquarelli said: 

“The fifth edition of our DSS provides a comprehensive outlook on the priorities of our domestic students as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. The sector has proven how resilient and adaptable it is over the last two years, and our latest insights continues to support UK universities by demonstrating how they can adapt their recruitment strategies and communicate with prospective candidates most effectively on the issues which matter to them most.

“This year’s report examines many of the biggest issues facing prospective university students in the UK, in particular understanding their concerns over the cost of going to university, as well as the environmental sustainability that universities show. It has never been more important for the sector to work closely with the policymakers to demonstrate to young people across the UK the value of higher education.

“Through our student market insights QS looks forward to continuing to support institutions to understand the priorities of domestic students and ensure we maintain a thriving and resilient higher education sector.”

Baroness Garden of Frognal, Chair of the Universities APPG and author of the DSS foreword said:

“This year’s domestic student survey provides an invaluable insight into the UK higher education sector after another challenging year. Across the UK, the cost-of-living crisis is significantly impacting the higher education sector. Students are reconsidering enrolling in higher education and data shows an uptick in students opting to study at local institutions due to the financial considerations that come with studying away from home. This should be cause for concern for the sector, and there is much to be done to reassure students that they will be supported financially during their studies.

“The coming academic year, hopefully the first that will be fully unencumbered by the pandemic, provides an exciting opportunity for universities, the Government and employers to build on the resilience of the sector and develop the UK’s status as a leading figure in global higher education. This can only be achieved by listening to, engaging with, and understanding the needs and priorities of our domestic students.”

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