Independently-Educated Undergraduates Are Happier With Preparation for Uni – New Survey

21 November 2016
Posted by Heidi Salmons
  • Undergraduates from independent schools are happier with the preparation their school gave them for university than are those from state schools.
  • 75% of independently-educated undergraduates say their school’s preparation was good/very good, compared to 53% of undergraduates educated in state schools.
  • Undergraduates at top universities more motivated at school than university.

Independently-educated students are happier than former state school students with the preparation their schools gave them for university. The finding makes interschool and school-university partnerships more important than ever, say independent school associations.

A new survey has shown that 75% of final year undergraduates surveyed said they thought their fee-charging school had prepared them well, academically, for university, compared to 53% who were educated at state schools. Nevertheless, overall 64% of respondents were happy/very happy with the level of preparation their school gave them.

However, the survey also shows that more students at Russell Group (28%) or pre-1992 universities (28%) felt themselves to have been more motivated at school than at university.

The survey, of 500 final year undergraduates studying at a variety of  UK universities, was jointly commissioned by the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), many of whose schools are in partnership with state schools, providing a wide range of activities designed to help students aspire to and prepare for university. Half of those who completed the survey had attended state schools and half fee-paying schools. The findings will be announced [on 21 November] at the Girls’ Schools Association annual conference.

Examples of good preparation given by both state and independently-educated students include essay writing and critical thinking, assignments similar to those received at university and self-directed study. Students from both types of school who were unhappy with their preparation for university, called for more independent learning, essay writing and note-taking skill development.

Former fee-paying school students are significantly happier with the value for money (50%) that university presents than are former state-school students (37%). Nevertheless, the majority of all students surveyed believe university teaching to be good or very good and students value the freedom and depth of study that university offers and believed their motivation to learn has been greater at university than at school.

Caroline Jordan, President of the Girls Schools Association and Headmistress of Headington School, Oxford, said:

“It is clear that young people take their learning seriously - they want to learn and they value their education.

“Our economy needs young people who are not only well-educated but also highly motivated and it’s up to schools and universities to work together more closely to make that transition from school to university as smooth and meaningful as possible.

“There are clearly still some significant gaps in students’ preparation for university and we hope that this survey is the first step to building bridges between schools and universities so we can address them and prepare our young people – whatever school they start from – for higher education.”

Chris Ramsey, Higher Education spokesman for HMC and Head Master of King’s School, Chester, said:

“We are pleased that students generally look back favourably on the teaching they received at school, especially independent school pupils.

“A huge amount of work has been carried out in recent years by independent schools to help state school pupils get places at their university of choice. Over 100 schools now offer extra teaching and help with applications at no cost.

“These findings give a fascinating new insight into the way university students are approaching their studies. There could be many reasons why those at the top universities seem less impressed with their teaching, including higher expectations and the emphasis of the top institutions on world class research and independent learning.

“We will use these findings to improve further the way we prepare pupils for university life.”

Click here to read the full survey findings.

Note to Editor

The survey was jointly commissioned, from YouthSight, by the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) and the Headmasters’ & Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC). They surveyed 500 final year undergraduates studying across UK universities, through an online survey that ran between 28th October 2016 and 2nd November 2016. Fifty per cent of those who completed the online survey had attended state-school and 50% had attended fee-paying schools. Extracts of the survey findings (yet to be published) appear below.

Universities have been categorised as Russell Group, Pre-1992, Post-1992 and Other. The Other category includes Small institutions, FE colleges UCAS-affiliated, and FE colleges not UCAS-affiliated.

Media Enquiries

Rachel Kerr, GSA Communications Manager
07921 685 012     /     [email protected]

Caroline Jordan, GSA President and Headmistress of Headington School
01865 759 111

Sue Bishop, HMC Director of External Relations
07787 294 808