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When does higher education demonstrate its value?

  • 11 October 2019
  • By Rachel Hewitt

This blog was written by HEPI’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, Rachel Hewitt.

The issue of whether students are getting good value for money has been a focus since fees came into play but has been increasingly under the policy spotlight in recent months. Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, highlighted value for money as one of his strategic priorities for the Office for Students in his letter last month. This raises the question, when can the value of higher education be measured?

Since 2007, the HEPI and AdvanceHE Student Academic Experience Survey has asked students whether they feel they are getting value for money in their current course. Even during their studies, more students feel they’re getting good value for money than poor value – in 2019, 41% of students rated good or very good value for money, versus 29% who said they were getting poor or very poor value.

HEPI / Advance HE Student Academic Experience Survey

When we break down these results by year of study, we can see the timing when students are asked makes a significant difference: 47% of first-year students believe they get good value for money compared to only 39% of second and third-year students. Students who go on to do four or more years feel they are getting even better value for money, with 49% rating good or very good value – though this may be at least partly explained the higher proportion of students from Scotland studying on four-year courses, given tuition fees are free for Scottish and EU students.

However, it has been questioned whether students can adequately assess the value of their higher education experience during their studies. Research suggests there are lifelong benefits for graduates, who go on to have better health outcomes (both physical and mental), are more likely to engage civically and have better employment outcomes, including an earnings premium over non-graduates. Therefore, if we were to repeat this research with graduates after they had completed their studies, the proportion rating their experience as offering good or very good value could be higher.

There are good reasons that we do not currently have this information. Surveying graduates is expensive, due to the challenge of maintaining contact with them once they have left university. National surveys of graduates exist but they largely focus on the employment outcomes of graduates.

The Graduate Outcomes survey, currently in its first year of operating, surveys graduates 15 months after they complete their studies and replaces the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey, which surveyed graduates 6 months after graduation. These surveys largely gather data on the industries and occupations of graduates.

These are not the only sources of information about graduates after they leave university. The sometimes-controversial Longitudinal Educational Outcomes data provides information on graduates’ salaries up till 10 years after they conclude their studies. But, despite the challenges of surveying graduates, if we want to demonstrate the value of university by more than just salary, perhaps we should seek to understand graduates’ views on the value of higher education later in life.

To join the debate on valuing higher education, sign up to our free half-day event with PwC on “Valuing higher education – how best to safeguard investment in the sector”, on Friday, 18th October in central London, with senior speakers from the Office for Students, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, the Quality Assurance Agency, Abertay University and the University of the Arts London: Limited places are still available.

1 comment

  1. Emilia says:

    I do not know where you get these results from .Students are getting poor value for money or no value at all for higher education.This matter has raised a concern in the field for quiet sometime but apparently nobody seems to care.
    What happened with the slogan ‘ students heart of the system ” .Higher education provision introduced in further education colleges ,the faimous HNC, HND courses own by Pearson and delivered everywhere( including BTEC HN).
    I have contacted Nick Hilman few years ago, about the fraud ongoing in higher education and the fact that students who are opting out for the alternative degree route ( subdegree) are not getting value for money at all and they are many.
    A Ponzi scheme is sold out by the Goverment .DFE ,QAA,QFQUAL ,SLC know about it .
    Where is the value for money ,in circumstances where students are defrauded on day light on purpose?.
    Pearson is selling old non regulated provisions courses as subdegree in order to access public funding. Obviously,students don’t know that at the time of enrolling because the qualifications and awards are validated and aproved by the state.Students are finding out at the very end that their awards are worthless piece of papers,awards matching non regulated provisions unable to ensure any progression.
    The dangerous part is that some HND’ s are sold in universities as their own( under Pearson Licence agreetment.
    The QAA representative, OFS representative must have the guts to talk to me and see the evidences .I have sent them the evidences already .They are grossly ignored.
    The coruption is going on up to the highest level When I am talking about a Ponzi scheme and the bigest fraud in higher education ever seen in UK,I have grounds for that and huge amount of proofs ,proofs which are going to get public soon.
    How you even dare to talk about these percentage being acurate, when you have thousands of students across uk cheated.
    The latest alleged fraud, in Cardiff College, Grafton ,GSM, the colleges who been refused entries into the Register by the OFS ,all are proofs that the fraud is wide spread.
    QAA,the ‘ferocious dog” is teethless ,corupted up to the highest level .Non regulated provisions are validated as meeting the national threshold standards .
    These courses have been sold to international students,. Pearson has sold non regulated Law provision as Law degree ,making an entire School of Law bogus.
    For example,St.Patricks College has delivered non regulated provisions for years.Nobody carers that millions are taking from public purse .These non regulated provisions( including subjects as Law and Enginering ) were all registered as prescribed,enrolled international students and been validated by QAA as meeting the national threshold standards for years .
    What is utterly dangerous is the fact that all these institutions were informed and they are not doing nothing because all of them are part of this Ponzi scheme.
    Students are tools in making money in a big machinery. If you are looking for value for money ,you are looking in the wrong side .Students are getting nothing apart from huge debts.

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