Many students unclear how tuition fees are spent, survey finds


The vast majority of students do not want to pay more money for a higher quality of teaching, with three-quarters unsure about where their tuition fees go, a new survey suggests.  

Nearly 90% of students oppose Government plans to allow universities with excellent teaching to raise their fixed upper limit of £9,000 in line with inflation, as outlined by Universities and Science minister Jo Johnson in May. 

Universities should show "how extra fee income will directly benefit their students" if they are allowed to boost fees, said Nick Hillman of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) which carried out the annual Student Academic Experience survey with the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

Some 86% of the more than 15,000 full-time undergraduates surveyed disagreed when asked if fee rises for excellent teaching were a good idea.

Mr Hillman said: "If universities are short of money ... and if the Government is prepared to pay the political capital for forcing that through parliament, which it is clearly keen to do, then the sector needs to go on explaining why an increase in line with inflation will produce benefits to students - students' learning, students' teaching and of course the overall, all-round student experience."

In general, the majority of undergraduates (85%) were satisfied with their course, but there was "clearly an appetite among students" for considerably more information" on how fees were used, the report found. 

An "overwhelming majority" of undergraduates (75%) felt they had "definitely" or "probably" not received enough information on how tuition fees were spent.

Students' perception of their degree's value for money continued its downward trend across the UK, falling from 53% four years ago to 37% in 2016 - with the least satisfied students attending English institutions. 

Students who were most happy with the value of their degrees were those with high workloads, including more contact hours, and where teaching quality was deemed high. 

Some 58% of Medicine and Dentistry students thought their degrees were "good" or "very good" value for money, compared with subjects with fewer contact hours such as Social Studies and Technology, where less than a third agreed.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "This data shows falling numbers of students are satisfied with their course - down 10 percentage points since 2013, and fewer think they are getting value for money.

"Students rightly have high expectations of quality and value, which is why our reforms will put teaching standards and job prospects at the heart of higher education."