Most students who go through Clearing have had to re-evaluate their university choices because their grades were not what they hoped for. Having not got into their first choice institution (and with a higher chance of choosing an ill-fitting or compromise institution or course instead), it is perhaps unsurprising that Clearing students are more likely than other students to be dissatisfied with their early university experience.
Indeed, Snippet Two from last year, which looked at improving retention amongst first year students, partly focused on higher levels of dissatisfaction amongst Clearing students. In the run up to Clearing for the 2013/14 academic year, we wanted to investigate this issue in further detail; this month’s Snippet compares the likelihood of Clearing students and non-Clearing students to recommend their current institution to others. It also looks at why Clearing students in particular might not want to do so.
Finally, this month's HE Snippet looks at some measures that universities can take to improve the situation.
Are Clearing students really less satisfied?
Our Higher Expectations study asks new first year students how likely they would be, on a scale of zero to ten, to recommend their current institution to someone considering university. By subtracting ‘detractors’ of the institution (those who scored 0-6) from ‘promoters’ (those who scored 9-10), the results are used to produce a ‘Net Promoter Score’ (NPS) - for further details on the NPS, please see March’s Research Snippet. As you might expect, the NPS for Clearing students is significantly lower than the NPS for non-Clearing students (as shown in Figure 1 below).
Figure 1: Net Promoter Scores – Clearing vs. Non-Clearing students
NP1. How likely is it that you would recommend your university to someone considering university? Base: All Higher Expectations students 2012/13: All students (12,444); Clearing students (1,025); Non-Clearing students (11,309)
5 most common reasons detractors don't recommend their university
We also asked new first year students not likely to recommend their current institution (i.e. ‘detractors’) why they would be unlikely to do so. The open-ended responses have been coded and the five most common reasons are shown in Figure 2 below. Clearing ‘detractors’ are most likely to not recommend their current institution because of its location, reputation and a limited social life; each of these reasons are significantly higher than the proportion amongst non-Clearing ‘detractors’. Clearly, it may be extremely difficult for institutions to address concerns like reputation and location in the short term.
Figure 2: Clearing students’ top five reasons for not recommending their current institution
Can universities do anything to improve things?
However, when comparing some of the open-ended responses for why Clearing students were either a ‘promoter’ or a ‘detractor’, it’s clear that some universities were far more effective than others at bringing their Clearing students on-side, simply by reaching out through a more inclusive culture and providing higher levels of support.
Given the importance of student retention to universities, it is crucial that institutions consider their Clearing students and cater for the fact that they may be less positively pre-disposed to the university experience. Overall, they are far more likely to be dissatisfied, certainly during the first few months of university, and many universities will not be able to counter the concerns that many students have with fundamental aspects of the institution (for example, dissatisfaction with the location). However, there are things that can be done to make the early university experience as enjoyable as possible; it is therefore important for universities to recognise the levels of support that Clearing students may require in order to ensure high levels of student satisfaction, and implement strategies accordingly.
Our Higher Expectations survey offers more detailed analysis of student satisfaction levels and full open-ended verbatim responses (at the level of the detailed institution) for reasons behind satisfaction/dissatisfaction, choosing/declining institutions as well as many other factors.