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Student News

Students reveal the degrees that are the best (and worst) value for money

Overall satisfaction is up (slightly!), but the perceived value for money of a degree is still pretty poor.

which degrees are good value for money

Fewer than than two in five undergraduates think they're getting value for money from a university education, according a survey of UK students.

The Student Academic Experience Survey (SAES) 2018 collated responses from over 14,000 UK students to reveal, among other things, the degree subjects that they feel are the best and worst value for money.

While almost a third (32%) of students feel their degrees are not good value for money, this figure represents a small improvement from 2017 when the proportion of dissatisfied students stood at 34%.

Meanwhile, the proportion of students who are satisfied with the value for money of their degree has also seen a positive change - up from 35% last year to 38% in 2018.

Is your degree good value for money?

Subject areaStudents rating subject 'good value for money'
Medicine and Dentistry62%
Veterinary Sciences and Agriculture56%
Physical Sciences55%
Subjects allied to Medicine45%
Biological Sciences40%
Non-European Languages39%
Architecture, Building and Planning38%
Creative Arts and Design37%
Linguistics, Classics35%
European Languages, Literature32%
Mass Communications and Documentation31%
Historical and Philosophical Studies29%
Social Studies29%
Business and Administrative Studies28%

As is clear, health-related subjects like Medicine and Dentistry seem to be the best choice if you want value for money. Meanwhile, Social Sciences, Business and Arts subjects rank towards the bottom of this table.

There's no official reason given as to why STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects in particular rank higher, but it's noticeable that the subjects at the bottom of the table usually have far fewer contact hours than those at the top.

In fact, Technology is the only STEM subject that placed low down in the table in terms of student satisfaction - just 30% felt degrees in the subject represented good value for money.

Interestingly, the study also found that university status and reputation made a difference as to whether or not students felt they were getting value for money.

Students from universities rated gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) were more likely to say they have received good value for money compared to students from silver and bronze universities.

Likewise, 42% of students at Russell Group universities felt they had received good value for money, compared to a maximum of just 37% of students at other types of universities.

What constitutes good value for money at university?

value for money degree

Credit: Nickelodeon

The survey also asked students which factors they take into consideration when they judge whether or not their degree is good value for money.

Unsurprisingly, money is a big influencer. 62% of respondents who said that their degree was poor value cited the level of tuition fees as the main reason. With universities able to charge up to £9,250 a year for undergraduate degrees, it's clear students are concerned about the service they're getting in return.

This is reflected in the other popular reasons given for a 'poor value for money' rating. 45% of these students cited teaching quality as a reason for dissatisfaction, with 44% complaining of a lack of contact hours and 37% blaming the content of their course.

Among the students who said that their degree was good value for money, the influencing factors were related to teaching quality and university facilities.

An overwhelming 68% of these respondents chose teaching quality as an influencing factor, while 67% said course content also swayed their decision.

A similarly high figure of 62% said their course facilities made their course good value for money, and 51% cited the quality of the university campus, including environment and buildings, as a deciding factor.

Finally, future career prospects helped 53% of respondents decide that their degree was good value for money.

What else affected student satisfaction levels?

student satisfaction university

When students were asked what they would like their tuition fees to be spent on, over half of respondents (57%) said student support services.

The report showed that undergraduates between the ages of 20-24 are more likely to have lower levels of wellbeing than non-students in this age bracket. Worryingly, only 17% of students said they were very happy in their lives - a noticeable drop from the already low figure of 21% two years ago.

It seems, however, that keeping busy could be part of the solution. Nearly three quarters (71%) of those with a total workload of 30-39 hours a week (including contact hours, placements, and independent learning) said they were happy with this amount of work.

In stark contrast to this, just 37% of those managing a total degree workload of under 10 hours reported that they were happy with it.

Overall, 65% of respondents said they were happy with their university and degree choice, while 5% said they would not pursue higher education if they went back and made the decision again.

What do you think universities should do to improve student satisfaction levels? Let us know in the comments!

Lucy Skoulding

WRITTEN BY Lucy Skoulding

Lucy Skoulding specialised in student news reporting while writing for Save the Student, sharing the latest data and top stories affecting our readers.
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