British universities failing to meet student expectations

A Which? report has revealed that English higher education needs to be “a stronger regulator to protect students” paying higher fees, after a survey found students aren’t receiving “value for money.”

In 2010, despite a mass student protest in Central London, the Coalition announced they would be changing the tuition fee laws in order to give English universities the ability to charge £9,000 a year for new students starting in September 2012.

Which? conducted four surveys under a report titled, ‘A degree of value: value for money from the student perspective,’ in order to establish whether or not students believe that their fees represent value for money, two years after the higher limits were brought in.

An engineering student at London South Bank University, who didn’t want to be named said: The teaching is rubbish, the teachers are not helping us. As an external degree, students need a lot of help. It’s a very messed up university and the course overall isn’t that great, so it’s not worth £9,000, especially when you can find colleges in London, that are much better and can get extended courses for £2,000 or something.”

The view of the South Bank student seem to be mirrored in the Which? report that found three in ten undergraduates say “their experience was poor value” and 35 per cent of graduates saying “that they are unlikely to have attended university faced with higher fees.”

Sanika, a Foundation Degree student at London College of Communication is not particularly happy with her timetable: “We only come for three days a week and it doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s really expensive, so you’d expect a lot more hours in our timetable.”

The report also showed that only 45 per cent of respondents said lectures were generally worth attending.

Nazar Al Samara, a Chemical Engineering student said: “The amount of money is quite a lot and substantial, but in a weird way, it kind of works to be honest. The funding you’ve got to spend means that you’ve got to make it worth your while. It’s difficult because they all charge the same amount, so it’s difficult for other universities to keep their standards. I think that the course is what you make of it really.”
Despite the concern from some students and some of the figures from Which?, the report also found that 68 per cent of undergraduates paying the higher fees and 81 per cent of graduates who paid lower fees under the previous system “thought that their university experience was good value for money.”
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: “We want to see better information for prospective students, improved complaints processes and a strong regulator that enforces high standards across the sector.”
Megan Dunn, National Union of Students vice-president believes that students are “increasingly treated like supermarket customers,” adding that “this new report shows that universities are woefully ill-prepared for the reaction by those they have let down.”
Photography by Mitchell Joyce