A fifth of university students feel they are being poorly taught, a survey has revealed. Despite tuition fees soaring to £9,000 a year, undergraduates highlighted a catalogue of concerns about the standard of teaching they receive in return – including classes that were ‘made up as they went along’.
Almost 20 per cent who responded to a poll of 3,429 students believed that teaching standards at their university were ‘poor’ despite the rising cost of courses. The findings emerged in the wake of research which found that three-quarters of university graduates will still be paying off their student loans in their 50s. Many also claim their universities do not offer enough lectures and seminars and fail to provide enough one-on-one time with tutors.
A study by the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies found that a typical student will graduate with debts of £44,035 following the introduction of £9,000-a-year maximum fees. Now a survey of undergraduates by Student Hut, a Trip Advisor-style review website for universities, has shown that many feel they are not getting value for money.
Complaints about teaching standards included ‘it was completely made up as we went along’ and that ‘certain lectures’ had ‘no structure’. Others said ‘tutor accents were impossible to understand’ and support for students with learning difficulties was lacking. There were also complaints about industrial action by lecturers, who have staged a series of walk-outs over pay over the past few months.
The poll also found that 28.9 per cent of students believed they were not offered enough lecturers and seminars while 22.7 per cent struggled to pin down their tutors for extra support. Some 29.1 per cent felt there was not enough emphasis on making courses relevant to the world of work.
Dan Lever, founder of Student Hut, said: ‘Students need access to more information before they make decisions about university.’If they feel that their experiences are not living up to the expectations they were sold in brochures, then we’re not doing enough to help them.’ Ministers have encouraged universities to publish a raft of additional information about their courses to help prospective students choose between degrees. Details include the frequency of access to tutors and kind of jobs students go on to after graduating.
Launching the Unistats information service, Universities Minister David Willetts said the aim was to spur universities to improve their courses. ‘My hope is that improving the availability and presentation of information about higher education will not only make choosing a university easier, but will encourage universities to focus even more on the quality of their teaching and the overall student experience,’ he said.
But a report last year by the Higher Education Policy Institute and consumers organisation Which found that even though university fees have tripled, students get just four minutes a week extra time with their lecturers. Students in 2011-12 paid £3,000 a year and received an average of 13 hours 59 minutes’ tuition a week.
In 2012-13, the majority (70 per cent) of students paid £9,000 and tuition averages at 14 hours 3 minutes.It found that while levels of overall satisfaction were running at 87 per cent, almost a third of first-years paying the higher fees felt their courses represented poor value for money. The report concluded: ‘There is no sign that as students pay more they are receiving more for their money, and that is reflected in a sharp increase in the proportion of students who feel that they are not receiving good value for money.’
A spokesman for the Department for Business said: ‘We encourage all universities to regularly review their student feedback to identify where improvements can be made. Student views on a wider set of questions about teaching and learning from the largest annual student survey – National Student Survey – in 2013 showed 85 per cent of students were satisfied with the overall quality of their courses.