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The past week’s higher education news demonstrates that there are certain expectations of universities that policymakers, HE leaders and the Augar review are expected to address, says Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of the Engineering Professors’ Council and Chief Executive of outreach organisation Push .
Leaders of thirty universities have signed a Civic University Agreement, reaffirming their institution's commitment to their local communities by pledging to put the economy and quality of life in their home towns and cities at the top of their list of priorities.
Jenny Shaw , Student Experience Director at Unite Students, draws lessons on the higher education sector's efforts to improve the student experience from a week of HE news and views.
From this September, students will be able to opt to study an accelerated two year degree, as opposed to a traditional three year course. Professor Malcolm Todd, Provost (Academic) at the University of Derby, discusses why universities should consider the change in legislation and look to offer accelerated degrees.
Over a quarter of students from multiple disadvantaged groups are dissatisfied with their non-academic higher education experience, new research shows.
While nearly three quarters of students overall are satisfied with their life at university, 29 per cent of those from three or more disadvantaged groups, such as those with a mental health condition, Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students, students with a disability, lesbian, gay and bisexual students and those from socio-economic groups D and E, said they were dissatisfied.
Students who have a declared mental health condition face challenges with where they live, how they socialise and in building the “soft skills” that will help them to navigate the world of work. Students with a disability are less likely to feel integrated in their accommodation than those without a disability, particularly among those in a flat or house. They are also less likely to feel happy with their relationships with housemates. Six in ten of those with a disability are happy with housemate relationships, compared to 65 per cent of those without a disability.
The latest annual non-academic student experience survey conducted by Unite Students also found that nearly four in ten students (38 per cent) have had thoughts of dropping out of university. Financial and academic pressure, loneliness and stress are just some of the reasons given by students for thinking about leaving their course. Specific groups of students, particularly lesbian, gay and bisexual students, those with a disability and those with a mental health condition, are more likely to consider dropping out and subsequently, more likely to act on this.
The survey found that while three quarters of students felt they were doing a good job of managing their money, a quarter admitted to having to cut back on food to make ends meet.
Nearly three quarters of students said they were nervous about getting their first job, and while over 60 per cent said they felt prepared for it, a third said they thought it would be a challenge finding employment.
Asked how they thought Brexit would effect their job prospects, over half thought it would worsen their chances. More than half also thought Brexit would have a negative impact on their university.
Richard Smith, CEO of Unite Students, said: "To address the issues raised in the report requires two levels of thinking. On a universal basis, it means ensuring every service and opportunity has been designed with all possible students in mind. On an individual basis it means ensuring that targeted services are appropriately available and feel accessible to those they are aimed at."
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