What’s really important when choosing a university?

By Avarina Wilson-Dyer-Gough

For the penultimate piece of insight into our research panel of A-level students, we highlight the factors that young people really look for and care about when researching and deciding on their final choice university.

Influential factors

We found that the most important factors when making a decision on a university are the location and the course. Employability after graduating, the teaching staff and the teaching process were also cited as important factors.

Location is one of the most important factors for students as will have to live in the city for at least three years. As a result, they want a city that is pretty and/or has a good social life. Unfortunately this means that they would actively avoid certain universities if they don’t like its surrounding area.

However, the course itself comes first as a leading factor in a final decision. Our participants stated that the course was why they were going to university and paying high costs. As a result, this means that, above all, they would choose a university for their chosen subject’s course content and teaching staff, prioritising the course over the location (and social side) of the university.

Employability. When looking at league tables or prospectuses, students look for employability ratings and examples of where previous graduates are now employed. 

Teaching staff. When applying, it is important for students to meet their potential tutors and lecturers. They feel a strong need to see first-hand if they are inspiring and/or friendly, because ultimately they believe that this can impact your experience of a subject and therefore university experience.

Teaching process. As young people face paying more for their education, they rightly want value for money. Therefore, they actively research how many lectures and tuition hours they will have per week, comparing different universities’ courses to guide their decisions.

Other factors students consider are living costs, extra-curricular activities, teaching and assessment styles, the pressure of studying at a specific university as well as the international vs. UK student ratio.

Interestingly, one factor that isn’t important, is where their friends are planning on studying. University is seen as an opportunity to meet new people, start afresh and be forced to be independent.

But ultimately, parents do have an important say in where they want their child to study. If they aren’t happy with a university, it can have a big impact on the student’s final decision.