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University value for money questioned by students

Teaching hours for same subject can vary widely


Nearly half of first- and second-year students don’t think their degree is worth the money, and there are wide variations between what universities offer for the same subject, Which? research reveals.

With university tuition fees now averaging £8,500, we found that 46% of students with a loan don’t think their degree is worth the amount they’ll pay back, although three-quarters (73%) say it will be if they get the career they want.

Three in ten (29%) don’t think the academic experience itself is good value for money. The top reasons given were that the teaching was inconsistent (60%), there was too much emphasis on self-learning through private study (53%) and the quality of teaching was lower than expected (51%). Half (49%) said there were too few contact hours.

See what students say about their academic experience in our university profiles on Which? University.

University contact hours vary

Our separate analysis of the 2014 student academic experience survey from the Higher Education Policy Institute and Higher Education Academy reveals that there are big differences between what universities offer students studying the same subject.

Teaching time for psychology students ranged from seven hours, six minutes at University of Reading to almost double – 13 hours, 48 minutes – at University of Glasgow. History ranged from seven hours, six minutes at Royal Holloway, University of London to 11 hours, 54 minutes at the University of Cambridge.

There was also variation in the proportion time students spent in small group teaching. Business and management students at University of Bath spent less than two in every 10 hours in small groups, for instance, compared to six in every 10 hours at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Better information for students

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘With nearly half of students saying their degree is not worth the money they will have to pay, and significant differences among universities in teaching time for the same subjects, it’s clear that many students are not getting the experience they deserve.

‘A lack of comparable information makes it difficult for students to know what to expect. We want the Government to make it a legal requirement for all universities to provide better information to help students make a more informed choice.’

Degree subject guides on Which? University 

Which? University now features guides on degree subject areas to help prospective students understand typical entry requirements, career prospects, and what is expected of them before they make their decisions.

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