A survey by the Higher Education Policy Institute has found that about half of all UK university students believe their university program offers poor value for money. The study illuminates generally negative sentiments among students with regards to how their universities have handled the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the UK government has lightened coronavirus-related restrictions first imposed during the 2019-20 academic year, the number of students who thought their course offered poor value has nearly doubled this year. And for the first time since the annual survey began 15 years ago, more students are feeling dissatisfied with their higher education than not.
The Higher Education Policy Institute believes such a drastic rise in dissatisfaction may reflect a mounting sense of frustration with how little in-person teaching students received compared to last year. With strict lockdown policies in place during 2020, students were more accepting of remote teaching and reduced in-person instruction, especially as many universities were promising a return to classrooms in the next academic period. However, remote learning continues to be the norm more than a year and a half after the pandemic first broke out and students feel their universities have misled them.
The survey of 10,000 undergraduates studying in the UK also sheds light on a growing discontent with the cost of tuition, with some students commenting that online learning isn’t worth the money they paid and that remote sessions were a poor substitute for in-person learning. The average cost of higher education has not changed in the last year despite the lack of contact hours and classroom sessions.
Nicola Dandridge of university regulator Office for Students told the Guardian: “It is clearly of concern to see such a significant increase in the number of students saying that their course presents poor value for money – largely driven by the limited availability of in-person tuition,” said Dandridge. “If we are going to learn lasting and meaningful lessons from the pandemic, listening carefully and responding to students’ views will be essential.”
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