Every month, we talk to our student panel to gain insight into the unique challenges UK students face and what they need from universities. This June, students shared their thoughts on post-graduate employability and the importance of REF ratings. They also raised concerns about how university life can negatively impact mental health. Here’s a closer look at June’s trending topics.

1) 4/10 students are unsure if they chose the right subject to get a job after graduation 

For many students, employability is a huge factor when it comes to selecting a major. While the majority of students are confident that their selected major will lead to job opportunities, there is a subset that is worried about their choice:

  • 27% of students are unsure if they picked the right field of study
  • 10% of students are certain they picked the wrong subject
  • 10% of students believe they’ll be unable to obtain a job after university

Concerns about employment don’t just negatively impact students – they also affect universities. If a student fears their degree won’t lead to job opportunities, they’re less likely to maintain a relationship with your school or recommend it to prospective students. 

So, what can your university do to help ensure students are ready for the workforce? A good place to start is by offering workshops geared toward finding a job. When we asked students about the top skills their universities are teaching, CV writing and interview skills ranked lowest on the list. Investing in your career services department and sharing these pivotal skills with students can go a long way in preparing them for post-graduate life. 

Another way to help students enter the workforce is by introducing them to graduate schemes, or entry-level jobs that double as training programs. While 54% of prospective students have expressed interest in graduate schemes, only 19% have actually applied. Make sure your students are aware of graduate schemes, and offer support to interested candidates. 

2) 53% of prospective students are influenced by REF ratings 

Every six years, a national assessment of UK universities called the Research Excellence Framework (REF) is performed. Focusing on research power, market share and quality (or GPA), these assessments can greatly influence how students feel about universities. 

Over 50% of prospective students and 40% of current students claim REF ratings influenced their decision about where they want to study. When asked why REF ratings were so influential, one student shared:

“This is because it allows me to see how well the university can deliver its materials to students and how well the students use and apply this during their stay at that university. It also shows how successful the university is in displaying their information or work to the public, making it more valid.”

If your REF ratings are high, capitalise on this by advertising it to your prospective students. On the flip side, if your REF ratings are low, you might have to do some damage control – especially since the rating may remain in place for several years. 

Start by analysing your weak spots and finding ways to improve. For example, if your school’s average GPA is low, you could enlist high-performing students to provide free tutoring services. And don’t forget to highlight your strong suits as well – while REF ratings are influential, they’re not the only factor prospective students consider. If there’s anything that makes your school stand out (such as a great science program or prime location), make sure students are aware of it. 

3) 47% of prospective students claim mental health is a barrier to attending university 

In the past, the subject of mental health was largely considered taboo. Nowadays, more and more people – including prospective students – are opening up about the impact mental health has on their everyday life. Nearly 50% of prospective students say mental health is an obstacle to obtaining higher education, with one student sharing: 

“Mental health sometimes makes you feel you're not good enough. Especially if you get a low grade on a module, it can make you feel awful and unmotivated and therefore leading to making you feel worthless.”

Mental health issues negatively impact the university experience by making it harder to meet deadlines, socialise with peers and concentrate on work. As a result, an increasing number of students are looking for support from universities:

  • 70% of students want their university to provide free counselling
  • Over 50% of students want mental health services to be more accessible 
  • 20% of current students have wanted mental health support, but have not asked for it 

Ultimately, attending university isn’t easy. Not only do students have to adjust to living away from home, but they also have to keep up with schoolwork, build relationships with fellow students and worry about career prospects. 

Give students the support they need by providing easily accessible mental health services, such as no-cost counselling, outreach programs and walk-in clinics. And, above all, make sure you’re listening to students by having conversations with them and staying up to date with our insights. 

Want to learn more about what students are thinking? You can get all these insights for free through Akero. Register today to learn more.