It's been a year since the increased tuition fees came into play within Higher Education; exams have been taken, coursework has been handed in, and the first intake of students to pay the higher fees are looking forward to starting their second year of university.
So what has the general consensus been? Were the facilities on campus sufficient? The teaching resources adequate? The links with industry promising enough? More importantly, are students happy with the value for money they've received from their universities?
To find out the answers to these questions, our own research tells us that unfortunately, there is still much room for improvement, with over half (55%) of this year's student intake saying their university is not living up to their expectations. Specifically, students cited the provision of suitable libraries and technology as the main areas needing upgrading, with two-thirds (63%) saying they expected to have access to more support facilities and services than they are actually getting.
Perhaps even more worryingly, despite the majority of students choosing 'improving my employment prospects' as the main reason behind their decision to go to university, we found that a third of students didn't feel their university was equipped to get them a job at the end of their studies.
Faced with such stark truths, what should happen next? There's no question that we're living in a digital age, shaping the way we work and live. Today's employers are demanding digital and creative skills as a pre-requisite for entering the workplace and students are increasingly expected to have solid work experience and glowing CVs to even be in with a chance of getting an interview. So what can universities do to help? In my opinion, they should focus on becoming digital campuses, providing access to the latest industry standard tools and technology so that students can develop the crucial skills required to succeed in the workplace.
Through my role at Adobe I'm lucky enough to work with a number of institutions which are setting the precedent and leading the way with this. For example, Coventry University offers a wide range of multimedia resources and industry standard software across its campus, enabling students to fulfil their creative potential regardless of what course they are studying. It also offers students the chance to take nationally recognised accreditations in digital skills, to help them build industry standard skills and enhance their CVs.
The university has also set up an initiative called the Add+vantage scheme which is designed to help give students a competitive advantage when applying for highly sought after graduate positions. The scheme consists of a range of core modules ranging from leadership skills, project management and volunteering opportunities. As a result of these initiatives, the University has seen a 30% increase in student satisfaction levels, testament to the importance of equipping students with sound facilities and the latest digital tools and technology.
As students prepare for their second year of university, I'd certainly like to see more institutions live up to their expectations by offering better value for money. Universities should be providing campus-wide access to creative tools and adequate support facilities, to help prepare their students for today's technology-driven work force. We need to make the idea of a digital campus fact, not fiction, and fast.