The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about substantial changes in student expectations from universities, resulting in a transformation of educational norms. A survey, encompassing over 3,000 undergraduate and post-graduate students across 11 countries (including 192 students based in Singapore) sheds light on this shift.
Of note is that one-third of students express neutrality or dissatisfaction with their selected university. This highlights a critical concern for university leaders responsible for delivering positive experiences. Falling short of expectations in enhancing career prospects or preparing students for the workplace are key factors driving overall dissatisfaction.
In Singapore, 87% of students prioritise high-quality teaching, slightly above the global average of 83%. They also value improved career prospects (85%, global 80%) and effective workplace preparation (82%, global 76%).
Notably, 60% of respondents in Singapore are managing work or caregiving responsibilities alongside their studies, prompting an increasing preference among on-campus students for the flexibility of accessing content and administrative processes online at their convenience.
The quality of teaching plays a significant role in determining whether students are happy or unhappy with their chosen university. This suggests that some universities provide better teaching experiences than others.
Additionally, students express low satisfaction with the “quality of online learning,” ranking it the least satisfactory aspect of university life, despite having little concern about the balance between online and in-person teaching.
While students find digital learning materials available and accessible, they give low ratings for engagement, collaboration, and checking understanding. This highlights a common practice of universities mainly posting lecture recordings and notes online.
Students suggest investing available funds in training teachers for effective digital learning (45%) and improving digital learning materials (41%) rather than upgrading technology.
Student expectations for a fulfilling university life
Unhappiness with university choice stems from certain expectations, and these include:
Enhancing career prospects: For 48% of students, the primary reason for choosing a program is to qualify for a desired career or enhance job prospects. However, a concerning 21% of final-year undergraduates feel their university experience falls short of expectations in preparing them for the workplace. The solution would be in developing programs that equip students with the necessary skills for the future workplace, which necessitates critical thinking.
Academic support: In the survey, 74% of students emphasised the importance of support to achieve their academic goals. Lack of this support was a major reason for dissatisfaction with their chosen university, especially for mid-level and final-year students.
Campus location: The campus location remains the third reason for high school students when choosing a university, indicating that the campus experience is still relevant. However, almost two-thirds of students prefer using the campus for social events and networking.
Making friends: Building connections with each other is essential for students. This is crucial for students’ well-being, sense of belonging, and social skill development – especially as online learning becomes more common – in helping to reduce feelings of isolation.
Nowadays, simply choosing a university by ranking isn’t enough. Students are now looking for a holistic approach to ensure that they not only adapt but thrive in the evolving digital era, receiving an education that aligns more closely with their requirements and aspirations.