What students want from universities in 2017

"Large amounts of useless information", "Not enough important images", "All look the same", "Not entirely honest". These are all quotes from a group of students when asked what university websites are currently like. Students know what they want to see on websites, and what is currently being shown, is not it.

SMILE created the opportunity to speak to a group of sixth formers that are due to start university in September, about the content that universities are publishing on their websites.

Nearly all of the students agreed that their chosen university website does not give them insight to what their money (a sum that most considered to be fairly hefty) is spent on — predominantly due to the debatable ‘honesty’ of the content. The students said that they feel universities are aren’t completely honest with some of the content they put onto their websites.

One student made a point that he knows more about a student winning a prize for art 10 years ago but has no idea about their accommodation, how much it will cost or what it will be like. The prioritisation of content came up as a problem with every prospective student that we spoke to.

workshop student research

A couple of students also said that there is a lot of information from the staff of the university but would prefer to see information from the students that attend because they know what life is really like there. Students care more about what’s at university and what’s in it for them. Instead universities seem hell-bent on publishing pages-upon-pages about being ranked in the top 150 universities, and yet more pages, that our focus group considered to be, useless information ‘clogging up’ the students journey of discovery. From our research, students are telling us that this current approach isn’t helping them to choose. Their reaction? Ignore or move on.

So what do they want? Less ‘waffle’. They want more easily digestible content, that is easier to read, and they also want to things that would help them discover the institute before they go to university. To our surprise, unanimously, the group wanted more ‘live’ features. For example: Live video. With the surge of excitement around Facebook Live, Snapchat to Instagram and similar developments, their whole life seems based around this concept. They believe that live streams of the campus, the accommodation and even a classroom lesson would help them better understand what goes on at the university in a more transparent way so they feel more comfortable when they get there.

Nathan Monk
Nathan Monk

I'm proud to work for some of the world’s most influential brands that shape cities and define lives: Universities and colleges.

I provide advice to forward-thinking senior leaders on how to exceed their organisational targets by creating user-focused, digital-first strategies.