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Study finds new students are unprepared for university

Incoming students have unrealistic expectations for their time at university, according to a recent study by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and Unite Students.

The research, which compared the expectations of over 2,000 prospective students, found that the main issues centred on academic support, mental health and financial difficulties.

Two thirds of young people surveyed expected more group work than at school, while 60% thought they would spend more hours in lectures than they had in the classroom.

At Warwick, degrees such as English Literature and History typically offer less than ten contact hours per week.

Furthermore, the Hepi study found that only a third of students with a mental health condition planned to inform the university, while nearly three-quarters of those surveyed expected their future university to contact their families over mental health problems throughout the year; this rarely happens due to legal and confidentiality regulations.

Besides mental health and academic independence, the survey found that young people were also unprepared for the costs of living alone.

While rent is likely to be students’ next biggest expense after tuition fees, with accommodation costing up to £6,864 a year at Bluebell, the study found that about half expected to be spending more on either course materials, nights out, societies or grocery shopping.

Schools, parents and universities – not to mention policymakers – all need to help school-leavers get real about their expectations.

Hepi director Nick Hillman said: “We know lots about what students think but very little about what those applying to higher education expect to happen when they get there.”

“We set out to fix this gap because people who expect a different student experience to the one they get are less satisfied, learn less and say they are getting less good value for money.”

“Schools, parents and universities – not to mention policymakers – all need to help school-leavers get real about their expectations.”

Universities Minister Jo Johnson commented: “People will have different expectations of a university education, but what is indisputable is the expectation for excellent teaching and a good return on their investment.”

Lauren Hurrell, a second-year English Literature student at Warwick, added: “I knew that university would be a lot less hands-on than school, but at the end of the day we pay the same tuition as science students and really should get more teaching hours.”

Hepi’s study found that only one third believed that their higher education was good value for money.

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