Students ‘working harder’ under 9k fees, survey suggests (UK)

By Jack Grove

Students paying £9,000 fees may be socialising less and working more than their counterparts under the lower-fee regime, new research suggests.

According to the National Student Housing Survey 2013, which polled more than 20,000 students between February and May, only 54 per cent of students said they enjoyed socialising in their accommodation compared with 62 per cent last year.

Only 63 per cent of students said they had formed close friendships in accommodation compared with 67 per cent in 2012, while just 36 per cent said there was a strong sense of community among students – down from 43 per cent last year.

The survey supports anecdotal evidence that the 2012-13 cohort of students, the first to be charged fees of up to £9,000, are more focused on their studies than those in previous years given the higher individual investment in their education.

Several nightclubs and bars in towns and cities with major universities also reported falls in takings last year, blaming less party-loving students.

Complaints about noise and disturbances from neighbours are also down, indicating a trend towards quieter environments, the research says.

“What we’re seeing is an acceleration of a trend that began a few years ago, where students prioritise study over the social aspects of university,” said Tim Daplyn, chief executive of Red Brick Research, and the report’s author.

“Whilst some may feel this is long overdue, many will be concerned about the evident changing character of student accommodation and student life in general.”

Students paying higher fees also appear to be more demanding about their accommodation, with satisfaction levels falling significantly last year, the report adds.

The proportion of students in student halls saying they are “very satisfied” with their accommodation fell by 6 per cent to 26 per cent, while the figure fell by 3 per cent to 29 per cent for private halls and 9 per cent to 24 per cent for the private rental sector.

The qualityof bedrooms and overall value for money remain the two most important factors in accommodation selection, but broadband internet access – specifically wi-fi, as opposed to fixed line – has emerged as a significant deciding factor.

In fact, wi-fi was ranked as important by 95 per cent of students, gaining a higher score than neighbourhood safety, en-suite bathrooms and having a good range of social activities on offer.

As in 2012, the most commonly paid rent among respondents was in the £90 to £99 a week bracket, with a small number of students (6 per cent) claiming to spend £200 or more per week. This figure has remained constant, despite the introduction of increased fees of up to £9,000 per year.

“The data suggest that despite the increased burden of fees, students remain willing to pay at least the same rents as in recent years to secure what they perceive to be a positive working environment,” said Mr Daplyn.

Source: Times Higher Education