You need cookies enabled

Cookies

You need cookies enabled

A report for the four UK Higher Education (HE) funding bodies, drawn from a number of academic disciplines, has been published. The findings will inform the funding bodies’ Review of the Provision of Information about higher education for students.

The UK HE funding bodies, working with universities and colleges, students and related organisations, are reviewing the provision of information about higher education. A key purpose of providing information about higher education is to support prospective students when they make decisions about their future studies.

The report, which was produced by CFE Research and Professor Jennifer Roberts, Professor of Economics, University of Sheffield, is intended to provide an evidence base for future developments. It summarises existing research into decision-making behaviour. Relevant research was identified across a wide range of disciplines, including information science, cognitive and behavioural psychology, behavioural economics and social theory. This research is likely to be relevant to how prospective students make their higher education choices. 

The research draws attention to the need to examine fundamental assumptions about how people use information in decision-making.

Key findings in the report include:

  • The decision-making process is complex, personal and nuanced, involving different types of information, messengers and influences over a long time. This challenges the common assumption that people primarily make objective choices following a systematic analysis of all the information available to them at one time.
  • Greater amounts of information do not necessarily mean that people will be better informed or be able to make better decisions.

Professor Mary Stuart, Chair of the Provision of Information Strategic Oversight Group, said: 

‘We are fortunate to have a rigorous, evidence-based piece of work from some of the leading researchers in the field, to provide well-grounded guidance on the way people actually behave. Much of this knowledge is already used by professionals in the field of student information, advice and guidance. This understanding complements what we all know intuitively. Through this work, I am convinced of the need to consider decision-making behaviour more carefully when we provide information to help prospective students and their advisers.’

Heather Fry, HEFCE Director of Education, Participation and Students, said:

‘This report signals a way forward for HEFCE’s approach to providing information to support students as they move into HE. The principles it suggests lay down a solid foundation on which to base our future work in this area.’

The funding bodies have already found that this study aligns well with fieldwork undertaken with prospective postgraduate students about the information they think will be most helpful in supporting their decision-making.

Read the report

Notes

Details of HEFCE’s review of the provision of information about higher education are available. The review is set to conclude in 2015 and includes a review of current tools such as the National Student Survey and Unistats, as well as students’ needs for information on how institutions spend their income.

Contact: Helen Albon, Communications Manager, HEFCE h.albon@hefce.ac.uk; tel. 0117 931 7076