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What would be your priority if you were picking a uni?

Picking your university can be a daunting task. But universities minister David Willetts asks – how can you choose if you don’t have all the information you need?

Going to university is a life changing experience. But when I was a sixth former, prospectuses were just about the only source of information about universities and the courses they offered.

Nowadays applicants expect – quite rightly – to make a well-informed choice. They recognise that choosing the right university and the right course is a big decision. They want to get the most out of their degree, while they are studying and throughout their lives.

There are no right or wrong reasons to go to university. Some people want to pursue their love of a particular subject; many need a specific qualification to enter their career of choice – medicine or engineering, for example; others view higher education as an investment that will boost their future earning potential. All are equally valid.

Whatever their motivation, we want prospective students to have the relevant information at their disposal.

Getting universities information right

On 27 September the government’s launching a new, standardised set of data called the Key Information Set (KIS). It will provide factual information for every course at every university – more than 31,000 courses in all.

The KIS will be freely available on the government’s Unistats website, helping people compare accommodation costs, frequency of access to tutors and the kind of jobs that graduates go on to from individual courses.

Too much information can often be daunting and confusing, however, which is why Which?’s new website, Which? University, can serve a useful role by offering data in a simple and innovative way. Anything that helps prospective students zero in on the best course for their needs and ambitions is a valuable tool.

My hope is that improving the availability and presentation of information about higher education will not only make choosing a university easier, but will encourage universities to focus even more on the quality of their teaching and the overall student experience.

What was your priority when you were looking for uni? And if you could go back in time to when you first applied, what was the one piece of information you feel you were missing?

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from David Willetts, minister of state for universities and science – all opinions expressed here are David’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


How about some information for the mature student?

If I go back in time, it was high-school career advice that screwed me and not the choice of university.

Considering that you are not mentally equipped at 17-18 to make the right decisions that will affect your life, and perhaps your parents weren’t pushy enough, the focus should be on careers advice at schools and not just what and where. Most people i would suspect will now choose the cheapest option.

The retraining I want to undertake is now prohibitively expensive making it hard for anyone outside a rich middle-class network to achieve what they want to achieve.

There is more information about universities out there than any potential student would ever need.

What they need is advice and guidance – about how to interpret it, what is right for them – from someone who has the skills and knowledge to help them navigate their way through the system.

This govt. has taken advice and guidance away from students and replaced it with endless statistics that mean little to a potential student.

Yes, that’s something we’ve spoken about before – the importance of one-to-one advice when picking a uni, especially now it’s such a big investment: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/university-fees-students-advice-a-level-results/

And although not a replacement for one-to-one advice, there is a lot of advice on our new Uni website: http://university.which.co.uk/search/advice

Value for money

Uni’s need to be able to be held to account by the students. Given the level of fees they need to be able to demand or or at least have it demonstrated to them, that they are getting more bangs for their bucks

If I was paying 9k pa I want more tutor time and not just ‘lecture classes’ of 60/200 in a theatre. I bet most unis will continue to offer no more than 4/5 hours weekly lecture time in some subjects.

My main interest was the male to female ratio 🙂

What about the price of student accommodation? Private landlord’s are making a killing at the expense of students. Students accommodation is very often of the lowest standard, barely habitable, and rented out for the highest rates. Students don’t need spoon feeding when it comes to courses but they do need protecting from certain types of landlords. That is a greater priority. With ever increasing debt why are we content to see students being ripped off in this fashion?