Teaching excellence and climate change matter to Gen Z a new report from the University of Winchester shows

15 Sep 2020

The University of Winchester has published a new report today looking at what Gen Z want out of their university experience. Polling of those born between 1995 and 2010, the so-called 'Generation Z', has shown they are most concerned about two issues: the quality of care in the NHS and the climate crisis. When asked about society's handling of these issues that concern them most, the majority of Gen Z are deeply worried by the government's approach to climate change, with 51 per cent believing that it is being handled mostly or very badly.

To understand how Gen Z view universities and the wider world, Winchester commissioned polling and research company Public First to work with YouthSight to explore attitudes of our future students - those currently aged between 16 and 18 who definitely express an intention to go to university - to help shape Winchester's thinking and guide the University through a period of extraordinary change in society.

The polling also sought to understand Gen Z's motivations when deciding where to go to university, and in particular what emphasis they place on the values of an institution. Excellence in teaching quality was seen as the most important factor by far for Gen Z when asked about values of a university in general.

While students' reasons for pursuing a university career may align with those of previous generations, their thinking when picking where to go for themselves does diverge. The stated values and perceived values of the institution are key - with 82 per cent saying it was very important or quite important to them.

Writing in the report, Professor Joy Carter CBE, DL, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winchester, said: "We found a generation of young people desperately concerned about the future of the planet, and about our health service. We found they are worried that the government and others, including universities, were not doing enough about it. And we found that while students are still choosing to go to university for relatively traditional reasons, the values of an institution were a significant driver in student choice between universities.

"Covid-19 has profoundly disrupted every aspect of our lives - employment chances, health and education will be scarred for a generation. As well as dealing with countless cases of human tragedy, our institutions now face challenges that for many could be existential. It is crucial we all play our part to address these challenges, many of which will ripple throughout all our communities for months and maybe years to come. Yet, at the same time, we must not lose focus on existing challenges. Indeed, in my more reflective times I wonder whether our experiences in 2020 feel like a grim dress rehearsal for some of the global challenges on the horizon. Population growth, increasing use of artificial intelligence, global economic shift to emerging economies, and more. And perhaps the most important and urgent - the climate and ecological crisis."

In the report, Professor Carter calls on society, and universities in particular, to take urgent action to help tackle the climate crisis: "As leaders in education and research, universities are in a unique position to be catalysts for real and lasting change. I believe the best way to respond to this renewed challenge is returning to the fundamental values of higher education (HE), values that for the University of Winchester are summed up in our mission to be a 'beacon for educational excellence, sustainability and social justice'."

The full report The Value of a Degree: What Do Gen Z Expect From Their University? can be found here: The value of a degree report 2020

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