From education to employment

Today’s students put achievement before social life


Career, academic performance, preparing for life after university and feeling happier are among UK students’ key priorities, according to a new report from Fika – the five-minute emotional workout app for students.

Fika surveyed 250 students across the UK to find out their key goals, priorities and values – aiming to gain a better understanding of how to support them with building their emotional fitness.

“Preparing for life after university” topped the list of values, followed by “getting the job I want” (2), “getting the class of degree that I want” (3), “getting skills that will make me stand out” (4), and “feeling happier” (5).

These key goals came in above “making new friends” (12), starting a relationship (20), and “feeling like I fit in” (21) – showing that today’s students are more preoccupied with the overall outcomes of higher education than they are with the social side of university life.

Students’ focus on academic performance and employability grew as they progressed throughout university.  

“Preparing for life after university” was the top priority for first year students – as well as the overall top goal for all academic years – whereas second year students chose “getting the class of degree that I want” as their top priority, and third year students “getting the job that I want”.

Other key values to top the list included “managing my time more effectively”, “feeling more confident in my own abilities”, “dealing with my uni workload” and “getting better at dealing with pressure.”

“Making new friends” made an appearance in first year students’ top five list, in fifth place, but was preceded by “feeling more confident in my abilities” (2), “getting the job that I want” (3) and “getting skills that make me stand out” (4).

For second year students and third year students, however, making new friends did not even feature in the top ten goals and values, which were almost exclusively focused on academic performance, managing time and workload, and planning for life after university.

The only exceptions were “being more confident around new people” (ranked ninth by second year students) and “feeling happier” (ranked fourth for third year students).

Gareth Fryer, co-founder of Fika, said: “These findings suggest students are increasingly preoccupied with the long term, and ‘adulting’, and less and less with their social lives and relationships – reflecting recent studies into Generation Z’s preference for long-term vs short-term thinking.

“It’s impressive to note the ambition and focus of today’s students when it comes to their academic studies and careers. All that said, there is a growing body of evidence directly linking happiness with success, and soft skills like confidence and teamwork are increasingly important for employability.

“With that in mind, we would urge universities to help students find balance and continue to prioritise their social lives as they progress through university – as it’s this balance that will be key to their long-term success.”

Fika co-founder Nick Bennett said: “These findings will help us shape the future of the Fika app – increasing the proportion of UK students who are flourishing, at university and beyond.

“As part of our ongoing research into students’ emotional fitness, these insights will inform the direction of our guided emotional workouts – helping UK students achieve the goals they have outlined, as well as prompting them to get the balance right.

“At Fika, we are working with our university partners to create the right environment and platform for students to develop and sustain positive mental health. Achieving work-life balance is a key life skill and as such an important goal for Fika and our university partners to help our students work towards.”

In May, Fika joined forces with author and educationalist Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, for Mental Health Awareness Week, to speak out about the need for students to achieve a better quality of life, easing the focus on quantifiable measures of success like exam results and achievement.

Said Sir Anthony Seldon: “As a society, we have become obsessed not with quality of life issues – love, relationships, happiness – but overly much with quantifiable measures of success: exam results, social media likes, affluence and achievement. This obsession is fuelling the mental health crisis in our young people. It is driving students apart, making them lonelier and more disconnected than ever.”

The survey of 250 UK students was conducted between 24th May and 30th May. Students were asked to select their top three choices from a randomised list of 22 options. The survey was not branded, meaning respondents did not know the research was conducted by Fika.

Fika’s five-minute emotional workout app provides guided packs and exercises to help students build their focus, resilience, confidence and empathy – enabling them to flourish at university and beyond. The app aims to offer a scaleable, preventative solution for student wellbeing, amidst growing concerns about students’ mental health.

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