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Survey reveals degrees that students feel are worst value for money

The UK’s students have varying opinions on value for money depending on their chosen degree, but overall there's a worrying decline in the average satisfaction.

which degrees are the best value for money

The percentage of UK students who feel that their degree is good value for money has fallen once again, according to a study from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

Value for money refers to whether students believe the value of their degree is poor, very poor, good or very good, and depends on a wide range of factors.

In 2016's survey, the proportion of students who felt that the value of their degree was good or very good was just 37%down from 53% in 2012. This has continued to fall in 2017, where the figure stands at just 35%.

The 2% decrease in those believing they received good value this year is mirrored by a 2% increase in those who feel they have received poor value (34%). This means that there are almost as many undergraduates who feel their higher education is poor value for money as those who believe it's good.

The HEPI report highlights that “a continuation of this trend into next year would therefore see a net negative view for the first time”.

Which degrees are the worst value for money?

which degrees are best worst value for money

HEPI asked 14,000 students whether they thought their degree was good or very good value for money, and here are the results.

The below table indicates the percentage of students who felt they were getting value for money from their degree, divided by subject. But do you agree?

SubjectValue for money rated as good/very good
Social Studies27%
Business28%
Technology28%
Art/Design31%
Combined31%
History/Philosophy32%
Linguistics/Classics32%
Education33%
Architecture33%
Law33%
Journalism/Media/Communications34%
Biological Sciences35%
Maths36%
European Languages37%
Non-European Languages38%
Engineering38%
Physical Sciences47%
Subjects allied to Medicine47%
Veterinary Sciences49%
Medicine/Dentistry58%

Different subjects involved very different teaching methods, assessment methods, contact hours, and overall experiences. These can all impact on a student's ultimate view of whether they are getting good value for their degree.

Of course, it also depends on individual views on what is important, as well as your personal outlook on money. With the fee hike to £9,000 in 2012, and now the introduction of the TEF which means universities can raise tuition fees further, some people are questioning whether any degree should cost this much.

Nonetheless, correlation calculations conducted by Pearson have outlined what factors influenced the value for money scores the most.

Teaching quality was a major influence, including factors such as how supportive tutors were and how interesting tutors made their subjects. Feeling that your degree matched or exceeded expectations overall is the most important factor to today’s undergraduates.

Which students receive the worst value for money?

which students get worst value for money

Interestingly, students of Russell Group universities were the most likely to rate their degrees as good value for money. However, at just 39%, the figure is still worryingly low, and only slightly higher than the 36% of students at specialist universities who believe they received value for money.

There are slight differences when results are divided up into the four parts of the UK, but crucially England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all saw decreases in perceived value for money.

A clear lack of faith has arisen among students from outside the EU, who pay the highest fees to study degrees in the UK. For example, only 34% of students from East and South-East Asia felt their degrees were good or very good value for money.

Among students living in the UK, the differences in results between white and non-white ethnic groups is significant. On average, 36% of white students feel they receive good value for money, while just 29% of Mixed and Chinese, and 24% of Asian (not including Chinese), students felt the same way.

Value for money is declining

university value for money decreasing

Ultimately, students studying undergraduate degrees in the UK feel that the value for money they receive is getting worse.

Teaching standards, including factors such as how interesting lessons are and the support or help which tutors provide, is a central focus if the UK’s higher education is to improve.

The variety and amount of contact hours received should also be considered. Overall, it is about universities delivering the standard they promise across all of their subjects.

Not only this, but universities must ensure they are up to scratch in all elements of what they promise. This year's National Student Money Survey found that 51% of students believe their overall university experience doesn't represent value for money.

Do you use graduate prospects to judge your degree's value for money? Find out which universities have the most employable graduates.

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