Value for money: the student perspective

One of the OfS’ core priorities will be to ensure that all students receive ‘value for money’ from their ‘higher education provider’. Value for money is enshrined in the regulatory framework for higher education that the Office for Students will operate. Value for money is also a key student concern. In a survey of Students’ Union election candidate manifesto pledges last year, ‘value for money’ was the second most mentioned issue.

Despite this, the definition of ‘value’ and ‘value for money’ in higher education is contested. Some believe that it is about the quality of the student experience itself, while others focus on outcomes like the ‘graduate premium’. While the focus tends to be on the home undergraduate fee, the OfS also has a responsibility to ensure value for money for postgraduates, for international students, and in relation to other fees and charges levied by a provider.

Funded by OfS, our SUs led some research into what students think. The purpose was not to definitively answer the question of what ‘value for money’ means in higher education but, rather, to explore value for money from the student perspective. Do students feel they are receiving value for money? Do student perceptions of value for money evolve as they go from school to higher education, and then into the world of work? What can higher education providers – and the OfS – do to help improve the value students perceive they are getting from the considerable investment they have made in higher education?

Full report: Value for money- the student perspective

Slide deck on findings from OfS launch conference

Capture

Press Quotes:
Commenting on the research, Middlesex Students’ Union Vice President Joe Cox said:
“Our survey shows that students are concerned about, and not confident about, the value for money they are receiving- either from their tuition fees or other charges levied by providers. So far the national debate has focussed on home undergraduate fees and the government’s review, but our research demonstrates that students are worried about where funding goes regardless of whether they are home undergrads that have taken out a loan or not; and that they are concerned about efficiency, cross subsidy and transparency. Given the investment students and the public are making in HE, it’s now time for providers to open up to students and the public about where the money goes in meaningful ways, allowing them to compare costs and hold Universities to account for waste”

Commenting further, UEA Students’ Union Undergraduate Education Officer Mary Leishman said:
“We found that almost a quarter of students don’t feel they were informed about how much everything would cost as a student, with the main factors cited the costs of accommodation, books and paying for extracurricular activities- and it’s more acute for students from a widening participation background. This research demonstrates that the sector still has some way to go in preparing students properly- and this is not just about information or external maintenance support because some of these costs are within providers’ control. We believe the OfS should require providers to make every effort to reduce student costs, from reading lists to accommodation- and where excessive profits are made, the CMA ought to look at whether Universities are abusing their dominant market position with their own students”

Contacts:

Project Coordinator
Jim Dickinson
Chief of Staff
UEA Students’ Union
jim.dickinson@uea.ac.uk
+44 (0)7449 903 618

This research project was conducted by trendence UK
trendence
8th Floor
Friars Bridge Court
41–45 Blackfriars Bridge
Road
London SE1 8NZ
+44 (0)20 7654 7220
email@trendence.com

 

Teaching excellence: the student perspective

As the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) moves into its third year, universities and students are becoming more familiar with the government’s new university rating system. With the year 2 ratings released in June 2017, the majority of HE providers in the UK now have a Gold, Silver, or Bronze TEF rating.

A consortium of students’ unions have come together to better understand what students across the UK think of TEF and of ‘teaching excellence’. Together with trendence UK, they have conducted the UK’s largest research project to date on students’ views of the TEF metrics.

This survey was conducted so that we can hear students’ voices on what they think of the TEF, how students themselves measure ‘teaching excellence’, and how the framework could, in its current incarnation, change the way students perceive the value of their universities and their courses.

This summer we questioned thousands of current university students, asking them to answer a range of questions about teaching experience and to give their opinions of the TEF. Some of the questions were straightforward and quantitative, others were open-ended and qualitative. This report summarises the findings.

Full report:

Capture

Contacts
Project Coordinator
Ed Marsh
Chief Executive Officer
Middlesex University
Students’ Union (MDXSU)
e.marsh@mdx.ac.uk
+44 (0)20 8411 2420
This research project was conducted by trendence UK
trendence
8th Floor
Friars Bridge Court
41–45 Blackfriars Bridge
Road
London SE1 8NZ
+44 (0)20 7654 7220
email@trendence.com
Press Quotes:
Commenting on the research, Middlesex Students’ Union Vice President Joe Cox said:
“What this research demonstrates is that whilst students want a framework that drives excellence in teaching, the current TEF doesn’t fit the bill- missing key metrics and over aggregating into unhelpful medals that students don’t understand. These findings underline the importance of OfS involving students as partners in future iterations, working with applicants, students’ unions and graduates to design a framework that is flexible enough to recognise students’ multiple motivations for entering Higher Education”
Commenting further, UEA Students’ Union Undergraduate Education Officer Mary Leishman said:
“These findings represent the first meaningful student feedback on the Government’s teaching excellence agenda, and whilst there is much that reinforces the principles of TEF, there are also signs of unintended consequences- the most worrying of which is the idea that 10% of BME students would have been put off by a “Gold” rating. It’s crucial that OfS interrogates and takes on board the lessons from the research if it is to work effectively to improve student choice and better teaching”

Union Futures

In December 2016 a group of 18 Students’ Unions jointly commissioned Alterline to do some work on the new NSS survey.

The research gathered data from some 17,000+ students across the diverse rage of institutions and has been used in a variety of ways since then to influence Students’ Unions work. At many SUs it has been used in block grant submissions and has been used as supporting evidence in lobbying work.

Julian Porch, Academic Officer at the University of York Students’ Union, wrote about the research on wonkhe- here.

With the change to the National Student Survey (NSS) question on students’ unions in the form of the new Question 26 (Q26), unions faced a fresh challenge, and opportunity, to demonstrate the extent and value of their contribution to the student experience and to academic life within UK universities. Bringing together 18 unions as part of a joint research venture, The Q26 Impact Study was the first of Alterline’s Union Futures projects and was delivered within four months, following the publication of the amended NSS questionnaire, yielding a core dataset of over 17,000 students.

The project was intended to enable participating unions to formulate a proactive response to the new NSS question prior to the initiation of the 2017 survey, as well as being a resource for reflecting and acting on the subsequent results. This report, Union Futures: The impact of NSS Q26, provides a summary of the key findings from the project for a wider audience beyond the participating unions, to allow the voice of the thousands of students who contributed to the project to be heard, as policy priorities and performance metrics in UK higher education continue to evolve.

Capture2

Union Futures- SU Research on the new NSS

Research Coordinator
Ben Vulliamy
Chief Executive Officer
University of York Students’ Union
b.vulliamy@yusu.org
t: 01904 323727
http://www.yusu.org