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
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”
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UEA Students’ Union
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This research project was conducted by trendence UK
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