Is University Good Value for Money?
by Roberta Nicora

"So what are the course costs associated with this subject?"

It’s a question frequently overheard during open days as applicants weigh up potential universities. For many students, higher education represents one of the largest purchases they will ever make and an investment worthy of serious cost-benefit analysis.

As well as carrying an opportunity cost of at least three years’ lost earnings, undergraduate tuition fees alone now average £27,000 and are set to increase over the next four years. Yet, a newly-published report titled ‘University of the Future: Transforming Learning and Improving Value’ finds that 43 per cent of students think that university does not offer good value for money.

From a bottle of nail varnish to a mobile phone charger, young people now rank, review and evaluate the most prosaic of purchases. Most undergraduates have grown up with online shopping, review systems, Which? guides, university rankings and comparison tools in abundance. As such, it’s unsurprising that they should carefully scrutinise the value of such a momentous purchase.

People will, of course, have conflicting views as to how value for money should be measured. The quality of academic facilities, such as libraries or computing suites, continue to be top factors in choosing a university with ranking systems commonly comparing academic spend per student, average graduate earnings and tutor contact time.

While the government’s controversial new Higher Education and Research Bill is purportedly designed to ensure students the best value for money, it has been criticised by many and is currently the subject of cross-party revolt in The House of Lords. In the words of Lord Stevenson, the reforms are a 'a classic case of understanding the value of everything and the cost of nothing'.

Regardless, it’s clear that as institutions compete for applications in a competitive market, many are already going to great lengths to boost value wherever possible. Some now boast an assessed work experience placement for every student while others provide free budgeting classes. One university offers a ‘no hidden extras’ promise to cover all course costs and some online nanodegree providers even come with a ‘get a job or your money back' guarantee.

Considering that 69 per cent of students say that having core textbooks included in course fees would represent better value for money, many forward-thinking universities are now giving students access to the Kortext digital learning platform as an attractive enhancement to their academic offering.

Undergraduate Marketing Student and Kortext user, Inayat Patel, says:

"The free etextbooks have made a huge difference to me both financially and academically. Each of my textbooks would have cost £30-£70 and I saved around £250 in the last year alone."

Kortext, the UK's leading digital learning platform, also offers valuable analytics tools to help educators understand how students are engaging with course learning materials and who might benefit from targeted support. These steps towards greater personalisation seem sensible since 91 per cent of learners say they are happy for lecturers to track their progress if this helps them to achieve better grades, with 76 per cent saying that they think analytics can help minimise dropout.

Today’s students want digital options and forward-looking institutions offer solutions. Kortext users can access etextbooks and other study materials at any time from their personal device, whether home for the Christmas holidays or spending a weekend abroad with a friend.

If tuition fees are to remain at current levels with the likelihood of further rises, the most astute universities  will strive to add value wherever possible - through improved support, digital innovation, personalised learning and overall cost savings. Find out more about how universities can improve the student learning experience by downloading ‘University of the Future: Transforming Learning and Improving Value’.



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