Tuition fee value for money: 'I feel ripped off'

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

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image captionNot everyone is smiling about their student experience

"I feel ripped off. They do the bare minimum and I honestly don't see where my money is going."

"I am in nearly £40,000 worth of debt and often wonder why I went to uni."

These students, asked by the new Office for Students if university tuition fees represent good value, are among a significant majority - 62% - who say they don't think it's worth the cost.

The OfS finds only 38% of students in England think the tuition fees for their course are good value for money.

Course subject is a major factor which influences students' perception of tuition fees, with computer science students, those doing physical sciences and law students the most likely to say that the tuition fees represented good value for money.

Those doing historical and philosophical studies, languages and creative arts and design are least satisfied with the value they have received.

Overall investment

The OfS spoke to 5,685 current higher education students in England and 534 recent graduates.

When asked whether their overall investment in higher education was good value for money, the majority (54%) agreed, a quarter said they were undecided while 21% disagreed.

In terms of nationality, UK students are the least likely to consider their investment as good value for money (49%), compared to 61% of the students from other EU countries and 66% of those from non-EU countries.

The research also found 24% of students did not feel that they were informed about how much everything would cost as a student.

The main factors cited were the costs of accommodation, books and paying for extracurricular activities.

The report is published as the government has launched a review of post-18 study in England, including the cost of it.

"How my course was sold to me is not how it turned out," one student told the OfS researchers.

"Much of the time I am learning by myself so unsure where my money is going."

Another added: "I don't see what my tuition fees are being spent on, other than the wages of professors and government workers.

"I see/feel no benefit from that money and receive bare minimum teaching."

One student expressed anger at a lack of transparency about fees and about a £250 rise in 2017.

"The transparency of our fees is not clear to us as students; we are not outright told where the breakdown of our £9,250 pounds a year goes.

"When I signed contracts and agreed that I was delighted that Student Finance would pay my fees directly to the university, I was totally unaware that the fees would go up by £250. This is outrageous."

'A degree can open doors'

However, there were students who felt their degree studies were good value for money and worthwhile.

"A degree can open doors to better jobs, which should lead to a good salary, so the investment is definitely worth it," one student said.

Another said: "The education I am currently pursuing will hopefully lead to a successful career. But I wonder whether university degrees in other countries, where tuition is a lot cheaper, provide the same opportunities."

"The lecturers are amazing: they know their stuff and they can answer the questions that you need to know without judgement," added another.

As part of the study, the OfS also spoke to a small sample of 310 Scottish students.

Scottish students who chose to go to university in their home nation pay no tuition fees.

The OfS found 70% of these students thought university was good value for money, compared to the 54% in England.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "We welcome this report which demonstrates the OfS's commitment to putting student interests at the heart of their work.

"Our evidence shows that a university degree can deliver a significant earnings boost over the course of a working life, however, we recognise there is more to do to ensure students get the return that they expect."

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