UK Higher Education

What do students value most at university?

There is a conglomerate of ingredients which make up the recipe of a student’s university experience. You’d be mistaken to think most university students are simply passengers submissively strapping in for the ride. Their experience is no longer simply about attending, studying for 3-4 years and coming away with a qualification to begin a career in the real world. For some students, their years at university can be some of the most transformative years of their lives. Lasting friendships are made, the highest highs are celebrated and the lowest lows are loathed. Ultimately what they learn about themselves and life will set the blueprint for their future.

Having spent the past few months travelling to an array of universities across the UK, which is part of our Whatuni Student Choice Award collection process, it’s clear there are a few key factors students really care about…


1. Teaching 

One of the most fundamental elements of a student’s university experience seems to be the quality of teaching they receive. Now, not every student learns in the same way. There are those who retain knowledge more proficiently through visual means, whilst others may prefer audio learning. However, regardless of how a student prefers to be taught, there are some definite patterns that have emerged amongst UK students. Students seem to favour teaching that’s interactive alongside lecturers who take a more ‘hands-on’ approach. I’ve lost count of how many students have complained about their lecturers for just reading off the PowerPoint. The general consensus seems to be this way of teaching isn’t engaging and lacks any inspiration or creativity. Also, the smaller the class size the better. Having a class that’s too big dilutes the effectiveness of discussion and diminishes the opportunity to interact with students.

2. Employment information

The prospect of finishing universities and having to find a job can be daunting for any student. It can be a period of real uncertainty, whether you have an idea of what you want to do or not. For those that do, the process can be arduous. This is where universities can step in to aid students in bridging that gap of uncertainty. We hear many students who praise their universities for offering placements, graduate fairs, email reminders or even a careers department. Those that do are showered with praise. Nowadays, a university should shoulder some of the responsibility towards helping students be in a better position to find work post-study. This could go a long way towards impacting a student’s university experience, reducing that cloud of uncertainty and ultimately attracting prospective students in the knowledge they’ll be helped.

3. Mental health support 

With mental health awareness proliferating by the day, students are now more conscious than ever when it comes to putting time aside to take care of themselves. Whether it’s the stress of deadlines, the pressure to perform, the ups and downs of friendship, or a busy schedule – a student’s mental health is vulnerable. This is where compassion and empathy from a university is pivotal. Throughout the review process, there’s been a trend of students crying out for their university to do more. Many have cited the long wait times, poor communication, or even a general lack of services available, which foster their frustration. Having the support there for mental health can be what separates a university that cares about its students from one that doesn’t.

4. Accommodation

It’s no secret that most students aren’t in a position to afford the most luxurious accommodation. With many students living in either a student hall or private housing run by their university, living conditions can vary dramatically. However, during the review process one of the most commented areas was undoubtedly accommodation. We ask students to assess the safety, condition, location and cost of their living quarters. The cost of living is the most often commented on, with students identifying the exorbitant price they must pay. On top of this, many cite the lack of security they feel in their accommodation. When students aren’t at university, they’ll spend much of their remaining time in their student accommodation. Universities would be wise to treat their accommodation with the same care and attention they would with any other building on campus.

Key takeaways

It’s important to remember that no university or student are the same, making for a tricky jigsaw puzzle that is important to piece together. But, as with any puzzle, there are some obvious places you can start.

The points outlined above all speak to the desire from students to feel as though their education and well-being are valued by their institution. To have students voice their opinions on what they value from a university provides invaluable information universities would be wise to listen to.

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