Is university still a worthwhile experience?

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Even before the pandemic, there was a debate among current and future  university students as to the best way to continue with education, move on to apprenticeships, or explore other alternatives.

But with courses being virtual and the full cost of tuition fees, the question remains: Is university worth attending?

So, what are students thinking when it comes to whether they should enrol or continue their studies?

Twenty-five students from various universities in the UK filled out our survey to share their views on why either a person should or should not attend university.

Q1: Did you attend university during the coronavirus pandemic?

A graph showing students who attended university during the pandemic

Everyone who completed the survey attended university.

Q2: If not yet attended university, will you attend university during and or after the pandemic?

A graph showing who is a current student taking the survey

About 88 per cent of students said yes they will attend university, while 13 per cent says they will not continue.

Q3: What year of university are you in?

A graph showing what year students are studying currently

The students who took the survey are in their second or third year of study. 

Q4: What experiences were you expecting to receive when attending university?

All students agreed on the following:

  • Having a social life
  • Educational growth
  • Career growth
  • New adventures and making memories
  • Meeting new people

Some of these experiences can only be done in person because there is limited interaction a person can get through a computer and or laptop screen.

One of my favourite memories I made while attending university was the university halls experience. Between attending events hosted by the hall leaders and meeting new people, it was never a dull moment.

Not something that can replaced by meeting someone over Microsoft Teams.

But let’s face it university life was hard before the pandemic because we are learning about ourselves and adapting to what lecturers expect from of us.

So, my next question to the students was this:

Q5: Has it been easy or difficult for you to attend virtual classes and complete assignments? Please explain why.

Twenty-four students agreed that it has been difficult for them to attend classes and complete assignments for the following reasons:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Not having the proper resources to complete assignments
  • Mental health declining
  • Disconnected with lecturers and peers
  • Not having the proper support from the university they attend
  • Not having a social life

But one student said that it had been made a little easier in some ways by just getting out of bed and going straight into university work.

Now, students do not have to worry about doing hair, decide which clothes to put on or walk to class.

But what next? What do current students think about life after the pandemic? 

Q6: Current students: Will you be attending university after the pandemic? Please explain why or why not.

This question caused a lot of debate in the answers.

Some students said yes for the following reasons:

  • I am in my second year so I will be moving on to graduate
  • Yes, will continue to complete my postgraduate degree

While others said no:

  • No, I am dropping out now
  • No, an online university is a waste of money
  • No, will be graduating this year and do not wish to continue
  • Only continued because I am in my final year this year

Some felt obliged to finish something they had already invested time and money in and some clearly feel they didn’t want to waste more money on something where they are not getting the full experience they were inititially promised.

Either way, while the students saying no shows how hard universities will have to work to meet the student’s expectations of the experience being worth their while.

After reading the answers to the question you are probably wondering…

Q7: Why should students attend university next year?

One person said this:To complete their studies or get a degree to help improve their future. It’s all preference at the end of the day. I know some people who are more successful without going to university so it’s not a path one has to follow.”

Some felt that if things get back to normal, then yes, attend university. It’s an experience in itself.

While a few others said the following:

  • There is nothing else to do without having any job opportunities or other alternatives being available due to the pandemic
  • I do not have an answer
  • No, unless they are fully aware of the course, what it will be like, and if they have the passion to attend

So from those answers, students explained…

Q8: Why should students not attend university next year?

And the students agree on the following:

  • Do not attend if it is still online
  • Your own preference on what you would like to do
  • Check other alternatives before making the commitment
  • It is a waste of money
  • Take a gap year before attending

Overall students are encouraging others to make sure that they know what the current state of play is with universities and to figure out what is best for them.  

But maybe you still are confused about whether to attend or not.

Here are some obstacles student face while adapting to virtual learning.

Q9: For current postgraduate or undergraduate students: What obstacles did you face, if any while taking virtual classes this year?

Overall, the students said that they had experienced a lack of motivation, technical issues and not enough communication from lecturers and other staff members of the university. They also cited distractions from families while being at home, and poor virtual class arrangements and assignments.

But some students will continue with their studies and answered the question:

Q10: For future postgraduate or undergraduate students: What obstacles did you face if any when applying to university?

For ones who are transitioning from undergraduate to postgraduate the reasons are lack of confidence, making the required grades, and for international students, completing the paperwork.

So these students have mixed feelings about attending university and whether it is a good idea or not.

Now we wait to see what the next year of student life will bring.

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