‘Money, Money, Money.’ Uncovering What ‘Value’ Means to a Group of Foundation Year Learners in Higher Education using Focus Groups
Value for money is a term that has been, and continues to be, applied to Higher Education in the UK. Universities are expected to justify the quality of their provision, and student attainment and outcomes in relation to the cost of the course. Foundation Year courses have been targeted by UK administrations in terms of the value they provide. The aim of this paper is to investigate how value is understood by students, focusing on those studying in foundation year programmes. Using focus groups with 17 foundation year students in various disciplines, what the students gained from their study was analysed thematically. This led to four key themes and one overarching theme being identified: 1) becoming a HE student, 2) supportive environment, 3) transitions to HE, and 4) financial benefits, with the overarching theme of finding a sense of self. The findings oppose the commonly held view that the financial cost of education is a negative concern for students. The implications of these findings include the need to design a measure of value for money that considers and includes the student experience rather than the presumptions of policymakers. They also raise a question about how the data can be utilised to provide more tailored support and information for non-traditional learners considering university.