Students willing to pay more in tuition fees to receive more personal teaching at university, study finds

Nearly half of UK university humanities graduates (44%) say they would have paid more to have had more personalised teaching, according to a new survey.

Disappointment over lack of teacher involvement looms large

Humanities graduates expressed disappointment at the lack of involvement from lecturers with their academic work (45%), with 47% saying they do not feel they had enough contact hours; and another 48% saying they had to ask for in person feedback if they wanted it. A further 51% said that they would have preferred more regular feedback on their work to help them track progress.

Prospective students want more personalised teaching

These expressions of disappointment from humanities graduates contrast with the high expectations prospective humanities undergraduate students have of their courses and universities.

For instance, 6 out of 10 (64%) prospective humanities students, an overwhelming majority of whom (93%) are planning to enrol at the prestigious Russell Group universities in September 2017, said they would prefer small group tutorials to seminars of 15-20 students.

A further 68% of prospective students agreed with the statements that they would prefer feedback on their work in person rather than over email, and that the more contact hours they have the better for their academic progress.

The demands for more personalised teaching also translated into a strong call for courses to provide return for investment, with 8 in 10 prospective students (81%) agreeing that their university choice should provide ‘value for money’.

The survey, which sampled 1,000 prospective humanities students and humanities graduates in the UK and was commissioned by New College of the Humanities, comes as the UK government is introducing the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to recognise and reward excellent teaching and learning.

A part of the Higher Education and Research Bill, the TEF was introduced by the UK government this May, and is currently going through the House of Lords for approval.

Small class sizes and in person feedback particularly important to students

Lecture, seminar, and tutorial class sizes are central to the study experience, with 47% of humanities graduates saying they would have benefitted from smaller lecture sizes. The number is even higher among prospective humanities students at 65% who said they would expect smaller lecture sizes to be beneficial to their academic progress.

“Students deserve more personalised teaching and feedback they seek. Unfortunately, there is still a stark mismatch between what students want and expect and what’s actually being offered in higher education right now”, said Professor A C Grayling, Master at New College of the Humanities.

At NCH, students are taught in a one-to-one tutorial system and attend lecture sizes with fewer than 60 students. Students are offered at least 13 full contact hours per week on average, which compares to an average of 10.15 contact hours per week at Russell Group universities for humanities and social sciences students, according to research conducted earlier this year by youth research agency Youthsight.

Also, 97% of NCH students receive feedback on their essays in person versus 31% of Russell Group undergraduates studying for a humanities or social sciences degree, according to Youthsight research commissioned by NCH earlier this year.

Click here to find out more on the New College of the Humanities