Each month, we asked our student panel questions around trending topics to get a better understanding of the current motivators and barriers students face. In April, there were announcements of recent government changes to student loan policies, and we wanted to unearth what that meant to our Student Panel and how this might affect their decision to study at university. The panel also revealed insight on the understanding of the admissions process, giving food for thought to marketers and recruiters across the country on how to better support students in their decision making. So without further ado, let’s find out what April’s trending topics are:

1) Over a third of students say the changes to student loans mean they are less likely to study at university.

Previously, loans were written off after 30 years, with students only expected to start repayments if their annual income reached £27,295.

The new system will see this income level reduced to £25,000, and loan repayment plans extended to 40 years. Our student insights can help you better understand your audience and work to solve the issues most pressing to them.

The government says that extending the repayment period will reduce the bill for taxpayers. But the Labour party warns this change will “hit those with low income hardest”, with lower-earning graduates affected more.

A significant number of prospective students have spoken about the effects this policy change will have on their futures: 

46% of prospective students said reducing the income repayment level to £25,000 would negatively affect their decision to apply to university.

38% of  prospective students said extending the loan repayment period will make them less likely to study at university. 

More students than ever are going to university, but it's important to think about how these changes might impact certain demographics – especially students from lower-earning backgrounds.

2) 6 in 10 students say that their primary purpose of a university     education is to improve their job prospects.

We asked students what was most important to them when pursuing a university education. We found that:

  • 63% wanted to improve their job prospects
  • 15% wanted to improve their learning
  • 11% wanted to improve their critical thinking skills
  • 9% wanted to gain life experience

Fortunately for students, recent news suggests a bright future for graduate job prospects as the country recovers from the pandemic.

According to the Institute of Student Employers, graduate vacancies are 20% higher than they were in 2019. And numbers are expected to increase further this year.

Universities have said that, “there are one million more jobs than UK workers with degrees to fill them.”

Our research found that:

  • 70% of students think all university courses should give students good employment prospects
  • 23% think some courses should give students good employment prospects, but not all courses need to be related to a career

How might this affect your current campaign and the advantages you want to lead with when positioning your institution?

3) 9 in 10 students think universities should have clearer admissions policies.

A new ‘fair admissions code of practice’ states that universities should not offer ‘conditional unconditional’ offers (where an offer only becomes unconditional if the applicant makes that university their firm choice).

This code applies to the admission of home undergraduate students and aims to support fairness and transparency.

We wanted to know whether students understood their current admissions policies. We found that:

  • 27% of prospective students feel they do not understand university admissions policies well at all
  • 16% of current university students did not understand their own university admissions policies

This insight shows that there’s still a lot to be done in terms of communicating your admissions process to prospective students and helping them see your institution as a viable option when it comes to making their decisions. Think about stripping your content, Q&As and FAQs back and answering the very simple questions of what, how and when. At the end of the day, this journey is often an overwhelming one and providing support will go a long way in the eyes of students. Discover how we worked with Plymouth University to be an empathetic and supportive voice in an anxiety-inducing time, and the results this approach had here.

Don’t forget you can access these insights for free through Akero. Register today for more student insights.

Article by

Mary Cohen