One of the most interesting trends in higher education in recent years has been the increasing focus from universities on student experience.
There's no doubting that educational reputation is a key factor in a student's choice of study. There was a time when many institutions saw their academic reputation as the main way to market themselves to students. But since the rise of the tuition fees, students are not just looking at the institution itself, they are equally interested in the lifestyle, career opportunities and the value for money they offer. And they are quite right to do so
Increasingly the overall student experience offered determines where students decide to study. We've seen the growing importance of things like Times Higher Education's Student Experience Survey where students are asked to rank their overall 'beyond the classroom' experience of student life. Interestingly enough, the survey registers year-on-year increases in student satisfaction.
The first element of student experience is arguably the basics of location. Do you want to study in a global city like London, a smaller town like Exeter or in a more rural location? Each has its own benefits and preference will very much be informed by the personal background and experience of applicant students. It may also be influenced by the type of course chosen - London may not be the obvious place of study for those wanting to study agriculture, mining or aviation for example.
This breadth of choice is where higher education in the UK stands out globally. We have fantastic metropolitan universities complemented by a range of wonderful campus universities surrounded by green fields. This gives both UK students and those living overseas a range of options, meaning there is almost always a perfect choice for them.
As well as location it's also the bricks and mortar that matter. Students do not expect to be paying good money to study in buildings that are falling apart. The appeal of state-of-the-art classrooms and facilities should not be underestimated. Having just overseen a new campus opening at the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) I know how important this is to both students and staff alike.
Students also want to know not just how higher education institutions are going to educate them but how they are going to help them gain employment post-education. That is often why the appeal of big cities like London is so great and why business schools tend to carefully select sites in the centre of large cities where NGOs, decision makers and corporate headquarters reside. Students rightly will be looking to have one foot in the working world before they've even left the classroom. If the relationship between an institution and the local business community is strong then the appeal will be much greater - and increasingly at UK institutions these links are well-established.
However, the new frontier of student experience is not necessarily directly linked to education and employment. Students want a rich social and cultural experience so higher education institutions increasingly need to focus on making sure that students enjoy their life outside the classroom. That means the first point about location is more important than ever.
The trend towards a focus by institutions on student experience is only going to continue over the coming years in my view. This will mean higher education institutions will need to adapt - but it will ultimately be the students who benefited from a richer more holistic studying environment.