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Financial matters and employability are front of mind for current and future students – 12 June 2014

11 November 2016

New research by Unite Students, the UK’s largest developer and operator of purpose built student accommodation, has revealed the following results and concerns, after polling over 3,500 university applicants, current students and postgraduates.

Poor financial awareness and struggles with finances

  • 60% of university applicants do not know if their financial resources will be enough to meet their living costs
  • Students show real signs of struggling with their finances and are unable to manage their money effectively. The ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ is still the most prevalent means of financing higher education
  • 11% of undergraduates polled rely on credit cards and a worrying 2% on payday loans. This would imply over 250,000 students and 46,000 students in the UK respectively
  • 28% of Postgraduates say their funding package is not enough to meet living costs and only 22% say the current funding system works

Employability concerns

  • Undergraduates are significantly less optimistic about their chances of getting a job than those surveyed last year, with 5% of students stating they think it will be easy versus 12% in our 2013 survey

Differences between male and female students

  • Male students display significantly more confidence in social skills and financial management than females

Integration issues

  • 28% of current students and 35% of postgraduates do not feel integrated with other students at their university

Digital expectations

  • Students and applicants value Wi-Fi above cleanliness

Richard Smith, Managing Director of Operations, Unite Students said: 

“This year’s survey illustrates the degree to which non-academic aspects of the student experience underpin the academic. It is clear that applicants’ expectations do not match up to reality in relation to finances, employability and integration with other students. Despite these preoccupations, love of learning for its own sake does not appear to have diminished with interest in the subject and gaining knowledge for life ranking highly as reasons to study.

“At Unite Students, we understand the importance of bridging the financial knowledge gap and have introduced a budget calculator on our website to help students manage their finance, as well as changing our payment dates to align with the student loan system. Our inclusive pricing also means students are clear about their accommodation, Wi-Fi, insurance and security costs for the year and there are no surprises. This year we are installing high speed 20Mb Wi-Fi throughout our properties, and from September 2014 will be offering free fortnightly cleaning in our shared flats. These are all areas of significant importance to students, as highlighted by this research, and will enable us to provide a home for the 41,000 students that live with us that supports their success.”

The survey which includes responses from over 3,500 applicants, undergraduates and postgraduates, revealed that 60% of future students do not know if their finance package will be enough to meet their living costs, identifying a financial knowledge gap. Current students were asked if they felt their finance package was sufficient and while 56% said yes, 25% reported that it is not enough and 20% do not know if it would be enough to cover their living costs. Credit cards were the sixth most common source of finance used by postgraduates to fund their studies.

The Students Matter research report from Unite Students, provides both a qualitative and quantitative study of all aspects of the student experience. Interestingly this year Wi-Fi ranks more highly to both students and applicants (70%) than cleanliness (66%) in their accommodation.

There is also a shift in attitude about future employability. Despite the fact that the labour market is showing signs of recovery undergraduates are significantly less optimistic about their chances of getting a job than those surveyed last year, with only 5% of students stating they think it will be easy versus 12% in our 2013 survey.

Future students express far more hope about their levels of integration at university (71%) compared to the reality of our undergraduate respondents, among whom only 41% say they feel well integrated with students on their course. Postgraduates also expressed a lack of integration with more than a third saying they are not integrated with other students at their university.

Postgraduates strongly reject the notion that either UK society or UK government understands their needs and they feel marginalised. An overwhelming 87% believe that there should be a tuition fee loan system for postgraduates, and only 22% agreed that the current postgraduate funding system works.

This is the first UK survey of the postgraduate non-academic student experience. The results showed an experience that is more diverse than that of undergraduates, and one which many postgraduates themselves struggled to define. And yet postgraduates share many of the same motivations and goals with undergraduates. Postgraduates are more likely to live in privately rented housing than undergraduates, and are more likely to live with a partner or family. Those that do live in more traditional student accommodation – who are more likely to be under 30, international and studying for a taught masters’ degree – show signs of having to work within a system that is designed with the needs of undergraduates in mind.