UCAS Report: Through the lens of students


Shortly after the end of term UCAS released a fascinating study into the student experience of applying to university. The research gives some strong examples of why students applied to university and how they think Information advice and guidance can be improved from schools, universities, colleges and UCAS.

Although the report is not broken down by region it provides a very large-scale picture of what student today are thinking about when they apply to university. In total 16,600 students were surveyed.

Interesting from a REACH perspective, the report explores the differences in answers between those students who we consider widening participation students. By doing this it provides interesting insights into ways we can help these students further.

Common themes which emerged from the free text comments included the following:

  • Financial concerns and worry about debt.
  • Lack of clarity about the real entry requirements for a course.
  • Understanding the full range of degree courses available and lack of visibility of employment opportunities as part of the degree.
  • Confidence in the graduate job market.
  • Variable quality of advice from schools and colleges – in particular, respondents reported a lack of support for those not interested in higher tariff universities.
  • Limited access to widening participation programmes
  • highlighted the need for earlier access to information, including advice on GCSE choices and the importance of GCSE attainment for entry to HE.

With regards to why some students hadn’t applied for high tariff universities, the free text comments highlighted concerns about:

  • lack of transparency about entry requirements – more students would have applied if they had known they had a chance of getting in
  • the desirability of taking account of contextual factors when considering academic achievements and potential
  • lack of understanding of career pathways from academic-sounding degree courses
  • lack of relevant outreach and engagement

The study also considered why Open days can be a financial barrier for some students and suggested introducing travel vouchers for Open days as a means of overcoming this.

Read the full report Through the lens of students report July 2016 (1)