Prospective undergraduate student survey – the results

Felicity Wild
Sunday 16 October 2016

As I wrote in a previous blog post, we’ve recently been undertaking some work with a view to redesigning the way undergraduate courses are advertised on the University of St Andrews’ website.

Undergraduate course pages are currently housed in the course search portal.

Our aim is to develop a more user-friendly process where courses are listed by subject rather than department (see phase 3 of our digital prospectus business case) and course pages contain more tailored and targeted information.

The first phase of this process was research. Adhering to our commitment to user-centred design, we undertook a survey of potential undergraduate students to establish what information prospective undergraduates are most interested in when considering applying to university.

Respondents were asked about why they were considering applying to St Andrews and what information was most useful when making decisions about where to study.

The survey was run over July and August 2016, and was mainly publicised through social media channels used by incoming students.

A total of 255 responses were recorded.

The results

The top five pieces of information that were rated most important to students when deciding where to study at university were:

  • modules you can take in your subject(s)
  • entry requirements
  • extra curricular activities (e.g. sports, music, societies)
  • how you will be taught (e.g. lectures, labs, tutorials)
  • information about the University’s national and international rankings.


The University’s reputation was reported as the number one reason respondents were applying (or considering applying) to study at the University of St Andrews.

By a large margin, the single most important factor that would make respondents more likely to choose St Andrews was more financial support (31.6%). This mirrors the response of prospective PGT students when asked the same question.



There were some statistically significant differences between prospective students entering the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Arts. Namely, the prospective science students were more interested in:

  • learning outcomes of courses
  • class sizes
  • interviews and videos of academics
  • information about the University library
  • information about study spaces
  • information about future study or research opportunities.

Some statistically significant differences were also found between single Honours and joint Honours degree applicants with joint Honours applicants reporting being less interested in entry requirements and accommodation options than single Honours applicants.


Based on the results of the survey, we have developed the following recommendations for undergraduate course pages:

  • All undergraduate course pages should include a section on the reputation of the University of St Andrews (or prominently link to a page with this information).
  • It is recommended that the following information be included in the UG course pages:
    • modules you can take in your subject
    • entry requirements
    • extra curricular activities (e.g. sports, music, societies)
    • how you will be taught (e.g. lectures, labs, tutorials)
    • information about the University’s national and international rankings.
  • The differing needs of science and arts applicants should be taken into account in the design of the undergraduate course pages – the possibility of adding learning outcomes and information about class sizes for science subjects should be considered.
  • A funding section drawing attention to the financial support available to students should be included in all undergraduate course pages.

Next steps

Using the results gathered in this survey and comprehensive competitor analysis, the digital communications team has come up with draft templates representing how we think undergraduate course pages should be structured.

The next step is to engage with academic Schools to gather feedback and find out what information they think is important to include on the new style UG course pages – there might well be essential information that we have missed and that prospective students don’t know they need to know.


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