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London students are more satisfied with their experience than those elsewhere in England

  • 9 March 2023

A new report published by HEPI and London Higher, Living and Learning in London: What the HEPI / Advance HE Student Academic Experience Survey tells us about life in the capital (HEPI Report 158),shows students in London are more likely than those in all other English regions to say their experience has exceeded their expectations. London students are also among the happiest, with more rating their happiness as 9 or 10 out of a maximum of 10 than in any other part of the UK.

The report provides a summary of what it is like to study in one of London’s many higher education institutions, including how different aspects of student life affect the various demographic groups in the UK’s diverse capital city. The Report busts some common misconceptions about studying in London and shows the real experience that students have when studying there.

As well as being more likely than those in other English regions to say their experience has exceeded their expectations, London students are joint most likely (with students in the North-West) to say they would choose the same course and institution again and they are more likely than students anywhere else in the UK to say they are very satisfied with their lives.

The other findings from the national data, which we can use to learn about the London student body include:

  • mature students and those aged 25 and over are notably more likely to say their experiences have been better than expected than students aged 21 and under;
  • students who live at home and commute to university are more likely to say their experience has exceeded their prior expectations (20 per cent) than students who do not live at home (14 per cent);
  • students enrolled at small and specialist institutions tend to be happier and think their courses are serving them well – likely thanks to smaller staff:student ratios and the nature of intense specialist provision;
  • international students are more likely than home students to say they regard their courses as providing good value for money, despite paying higher fees; and
  • Black UK-domiciled students are more likely to appreciate the diversity of the student population around them but less likely than White UK-domiciled students to view their courses as good value for money, which may reflect socio-economic disparities.

Among the minority of students in London who feel their experience has been worse than expected, teaching quality and a shortage of in-person peer interaction come top. Industrial action was also mentioned as an unexpected issue detracting from overall satisfaction.

Overall, however, London students are more likely than those in any other UK region to indicate they feel prepared for life beyond university, probably owing both to the opportunities provided by their institutions as well as the unrivalled range of employment opportunities in the capital.

Dr Diana Beech, Chief Executive Officer, London Higher said:

Our Living and Learning in London report reveals some really positive data around London students’ perceptions of their studies. London’s student population is very diverse and has a large group of commuter students and mature students, so it is great to see both of these groups were the most satisfied with their experience. Similarly, we are proud to also be catering well to our international students who are seeing value in a higher education from a London university.

Along with the positive, however, we must remember that there were still students who felt their experience was worse than expected and, as the UK region set to see the biggest growth in student places over the next decade, we must address the underlying issues for this.

Professor Sir Anthony Finkelstein CBE, President of City, University of London said:

This report sets the record straight on the London student experience. It highlights the range and quality of London institutions and the benefits of studying in an incredibly rich and diverse global city.

In particular, it gives a better understanding of the ‘commuter student’ and what they gain from being immersed in both their own communities and with access to world-class universities.

Of the many findings, the most intriguing is the way in which employment and employability arising from the unique embedding of London institutions feature in the student experience.

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said:

It is hard to think of any other single city anywhere in the world that has so many first-rate higher education institutions. Despite serious and valid concerns about the cost of living in London which may deter some people from studying there, the data clearly show that the decision to study in London is paying off for most students that have made it.

Compared to students elsewhere in the UK, London students are more likely to say their experience has matched their prior expectations, they are more likely to be very satisfied with their lives and more of them feel prepared for life after study.

This new study shows the power of the underlying dataset, which is the annual HEPI / Advance HE Student Academic Experience Survey, to reveal underexplored areas. We urge other researchers to make use of the dataset to answer things we do not already know about the student experience across the UK.

Notes for Editors

  1. London Higher is the representative body for almost 50 universities and higher education colleges across the capital. We are committed to raising the voice of London’s higher education and research sector and ensuring our members are making the London higher education experience the best it can be for students and staff from around the world.
  2. HEPI was established in 2002 to influence the higher education debate with evidence. It is UK-wide, independent and non-partisan, and it is funded by organisations and higher education institutions that wish to support vibrant policy discussions as well as through events.
  3. Further information about the most recent wave of the HEPI / Advance HEPI Student Academic Experience Survey, including the original report and the underlying data, can be obtained here:


  1. albert wright says:

    I am both surprised and delighted that London students’ satisfaction with their experience is so high compared to the rest of the UK.

    It is very interesting to see that students who live at home and commute to University in London also score highly in terms of satisfaction. I wonder if there is much difference in the grades they receive in exams compared to those that live more “on campus”?

  2. Stu Grey says:

    So the 10 years of data showing London students at the lowest end of satisfaction in the NSS is incorrect (based on over 300k responses per year)?

    What excuse do vice-chancellors who blamed low satisfaction on the ‘London effect’ have then?

    1. Nick Hillman says:

      The SAES and the NSS are not directly comparable. For example, they cover different students (NSS is final year students and includes part-time, SAES is all years full-time). Also the satisfaction questions are very different. (NSS is more sector-owned and SAES more independent so topics are different too.)

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