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61% of Students Do Not Feel Prepared for University Learning, finds FutureLearn’s Student Futures Survey

As students wait for A-Level results, a survey from the online social learning platform, FutureLearn, reveals students’ hopes and concerns for the future:

• 61% of students do not feel prepared for university learning

• Coding is the top career choice ahead of traditional options like medicine or law

• Money over happiness: salary is more important to students than enjoying the job

• 50% are worried about having enough money to live on at university

• 93% believe taking an online course will have a beneficial impact on their future

In a recent survey, nearly two in three students (61%) admitted that they do not feel completely prepared for the style of learning they will encounter at university. The Student Futures Survey – commissioned by FutureLearn, the provider of free online courses – points to a learning gap between school and university study.

FutureLearn has been working with schools to understand how its free online courses can support students and teachers, inspire independent learning and help to bridge learning gaps that develop between the different styles of learning from school to university.

The survey polled 1,000 16 to 18-year-olds about their aspirations for university and beyond. It found that:

Students feel unprepared for the leap into university study

A high proportion of respondents, 61%, felt unprepared for university learning, which points to a learning gap between school and higher education. One-third (30%) were anxious about their choice of course or university, worrying that they wouldn’t like it once they started.

Career choices: tech savvy generation prefer coding over traditional choices like law or medicine

Coding and software development tops students’ career aspirations, with traditional professions taking a back seat. FutureLearn’s survey found that 23% of students expressed an interest in a career in coding. A role in the medical profession comes a close second at 22%, whilst 16% are attracted to law and to marketing, with 15% selecting forensic science as a potential career goal.

It’s all about the money

The financial turbulence brought on by the global financial crisis along with the rise in tuition fees has shaped students’ motivations. 50% of those going to university are concerned about covering their basic financial requirements and having enough money to live on. A further 35% felt worried about paying back fees, although only 17% felt pessimistic about their job opportunities once they complete their studies. For today’s students, the earning potential of a job was the most important consideration in a career choice, cited by 52% of respondents, ahead of interesting work (50%), work/life balance (45%) or working to benefit a cause.

A focus on making the grade

Only a third (30%) were worried about how many friends they’d make at university, and a mere 8% worried about meeting a girlfriend or boyfriend. However, at 40%, many of those polled said that their biggest concern was getting good grades, indicating that they took their studies seriously.

FutureLearn’s Head of Strategy and Insight, Kathryn Skelton, said: “It’s great to see that today’s students take their university education seriously, but anxieties about their study abilities – with almost two-thirds saying they don’t feel prepared for higher education style learning – indicates they need a helping hand with the transition from school to university. FutureLearn’s portfolio of free, online courses from some of the best universities in the UK and internationally helps students to develop skills in self-directed study, and gives them a taster of the fascinating topics they can cover at university.”

Feedback from students who have already taken FutureLearn courses indicates that the majority (93%) believe doing a course will have a beneficial impact on their future, be that in terms of preparing for university, improving UCAS applications or getting a valuable taster of future study options.

Kathryn Skelton also said: “Career aspirations relating to coding are in line with what we see on, where courses focusing on technology have performed very well with this age group; the University of Reading’s popular ‘Begin Programming: Build your first mobile game’ course is being run for a second time in October to meet this demand. Courses in medicine, forensic science and dentistry are also popular; Sheffield’s Discover Dentistry course – a favourite with A-level students – runs again in the autumn too.”

Students can sign up to free, online courses here.

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