The survey of more than 1,000 students also revealed that they place a high level of trust in their university compared with other sectors.
The survey report looks at the implications of these attitudes for universities and policymakers ahead of the establishment of the new Office for Students (OfS), the regulator for the English higher education sector from 2018.
The survey found that:
- Around half of undergraduates say they regard themselves as a customer of their university (47%).
- Students placed a high level of trust in their university. Four-fifths of students (79%) value the relationship they have with their university and 87% say their university treats its students fairly, indicating high levels of trust across the higher education sector.
- Three in five (62%) of undergraduates say that their university cares about their best interests, second only to the proportion saying that an NHS doctor cares about their best interests (73%).
- A high proportion of students (80%) said that personalised advice and support are among the top three things they want from their relationship with their university.
- 91% of those who said that their course is good value for money also said they value their relationship with their university.
- Student perceptions of value for money are based on what they expect to get out of their studies, particularly employment, as well as their personal experience of studying.
- Students recognise that course changes may be necessary or beneficial, but want universities to communicate these changes up to a year in advance.
"What is clear from this survey is that students want a personal relationship with their university, rather than the type of engagement they associate with being a 'customer'. The research shows that students view their relationship with their university as unique. They value a personalised and collaborative relationship, rather than a superficial consumer transaction. While students have clear expectations of their university, they also expect to shape their own experience."The aim of this survey was to understand how students currently perceive their relationship with their university and how this compares with other customer relationships. This is an area where universities have worked hard, and it is particularly positive to see students having high levels of trust in their university, in comparison with other sectors.
"The challenge for universities will be to ensure that market competition and the development of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) contribute to the enhancement of teaching practice and learning outcomes in the long term."