22 May, 2022

The price of success

23 October, 2018

Higher education is, of course, of great importance. It’s important for students with career aspirations, and it’s important for any nation keen to protect its economic and knowledge-based standing at home and abroad. All this is of course a given from a philosophical standpoint. However, on a more practical note, some fairly powerful tremors were felt among the student community when the government decided to allow universities to charge up to £9000 a year in tuition fees from the academic year of 2012-13. This left many bright and aspiring students with the prospect of either foregoing a university education or facing a level of accumulating debt they could well do without by the time they took their first steps within their chosen professions.

So, in 2018, with tuition fees now set at a maximum of £9,250 per annum, do university students really feel they are deriving worthwhile benefit from their courses of choice and from the uni experience in general? The answer seems to be less than wholly good news. In a recent survey conducted by market research firm ‘YouGov’ (www.yougov.co.uk), some 62% of 857 students maintain that “the standard of education and the wages graduates earn are not enough to warrant the cost of English/Welsh university degrees”. Continuing the theme, training and qualification provider TheKnowledgeAcademy.com (www.theknowledgeacademy.com) analysed the latest findings from ‘Higher Education Policy Institute’, who surveyed 14,046 full-time undergraduate students to discover which university subjects/courses have the best ‘value for money’.

The Knowledge Academy discovered that students of medicine and dentistry (62%) believe their chosen courses are the ones that deliver the best value for money. Thereafter, students on veterinary sciences and agriculture (56%) based degrees believe they are getting the next best return on their educational investment. In third position, 55% of students enrolled on a physical sciences discipline, think it offers them good value for money.

So, what about engineering? It would appear that a comparatively small number of undergraduates, 41%, feel their engineering degree is giving them good ‘value for money’. At least this level of satisfaction is higher than business and administrative degrees (28%) where undergraduates feel they are gaining the least ‘bang for their buck’. Slightly above, just 29% of students on social, historical or philosophical studies – equally think their courses offer some sort of value for money.

So, on to technology. Somewhat surprisingly, this discipline (30%) was in a unique position when compared with rest of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, as it experienced a much lower percentage of students declaring that they are getting good value for money from their (technology-related) course.

“It’s interesting to see from the point of students if their chosen university course is actually giving them value for money or not at the increased tuition fee rates,” said Joseph Scott, a spokesperson from the TheKnowledgeAcademy.com.” He added that the research certainly shows there are degree disciplines that are giving undergraduates who are studying them more for their money than others. However, within the context of ‘value’ he said it is important to know that students tend to factor in teaching quality, course content, lecturer contact hours and availability of learning resources into their assessment. This makes sense in order to get a clearer picture of what the idea of ‘good value for money’ means for students. Nevertheless, the bottom line has to come down to what concrete career opportunities lie ahead for graduates in the ‘real world’. Without a healthy volume of students willing to invest considerable amounts of time and money in pursuing an engineering/STEM/technology-based career then industry and, as a consequence, the nation will suffer. There needs to be an increasing number of opportunities in the engineering/STEM/technology job market for students to set their sights on.

Ed Holden


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