Students think their academic experience is poor value, says Which? report

Which? report: A Degree of Value

The report, entitled ‘A Degree of Value’, was released last week

A report released by consumer watchdog Which? has questioned whether students in higher education get “a degree of value”.

Amongst a wealth of statistics, it shows the University of Lincoln to be one of the worst of the 25 included in the report in terms of the teaching hours psychology students receive, at just over nine hours per week. 112 universities across the country have psychology courses.

It also highlights national problems with the worth of the higher education system, with just 45% claiming seminars are “worth going to”, and 47% claiming that less than half of their tutors push them to do their best.

Around two in ten students believe staff put a lot of effort into commenting on their work, and the same proportion claimed their courses were poorly managed – 58% of those students reported experiencing one or more changes to their course; and 20% were told an advertised module would no longer be available, or that the content of their course would change significantly.

In a response to the report’s findings, the National Union of Students’ Vice President for Higher Education, Megan Dunn, said: “This report highlights the damaging effects of the market principles that have been imposed on the higher education sector by politicians and the complacency of the university vice chancellors who cheered them on from the side lines.

“What the market champions failed to realise was that students, increasingly treated like supermarket customers, would look to exercise their consumer rights. This new report shows that universities are woefully ill-prepared for the reaction by those they have let down.

“We remain unconvinced that students will be better served by contracts, small print and market information than a publicly funded education system that values teaching, learning and partnership. The two are increasingly incompatible. This report should serve as a wake-up call. We need a change of course.”

The University of Lincoln’s spokesperson told The Linc: “The Which? ‘A Degree of Value’ report includes details of the academic experience for Psychology students at some universities across the UK, highlighting the total number of teaching hours and academic-led teaching hours.

“In this report, the University of Lincoln is ranked second in the UK for the percentage of Psychology teaching hours led by academic lecturers and professors. At Lincoln, 92.3% of Psychology teaching is led by academics rather than postgraduate students, ensuring a valuable learning experience and high standards of teaching.

“Students also benefit from a great deal of direct one-to-one supervision with academic tutors, especially in the final year of study, which isn’t timetabled and therefore will not be reflected in these figures.”

They also highlighted the difference between the Which? report and figures provided by the National Student Survey (NSS): “The Which? report only includes universities where 20 or more students provided information in response to the study. In the NSS 2014, which surveyed students from 114 UK institutions, the University of Lincoln’s Psychology courses are ranked in the top 20% for overall satisfaction. The NSS 2014 also ranks Lincoln’s Psychology courses as 4th in the UK for learning resources.”

The spokesman concluded: “At the University of Lincoln, we are confident that we offer our students value for money. In our most recent Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) review, the University received an excellent result and was commended for the enhancement of student learning opportunities and the innovative ways in which we give our students a voice.”

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