The latest Student Lifestyle Survey by Sodexo asks 2,000 students from 144 universities across the UK finds that the student party animal is an endangered species as staying in is the new going out, most are students (79%) making an effort to eat healthily and many are now cooking for themselves.

It’s all about the job: Forget any idea that young people go to university these days to gain life experience, explore their favourite subject or party relentlessly. Given the huge future financial burden, it’s definitely now all about getting the qualification that will get them the job (and the salary).

“More than three-quarters of students (76%) said a key reason for going to university was to improve their job opportunities. This was slightly up on the last survey (74%) and was a marginally more important factor for women (78%) than for men (73%)”.

Universities really need to prioritise online reputation: Asked the reason they chose their university, the most popular answer was ‘Favourable internet research’. Over half of all current students cited online research as the top influence, with ‘Friendly atmosphere’ and ‘Good impression at open day’ closely behind.

This should be an alarm call for universities slow to invest in digital marketing. The importance of open days means HE marketers could take learnings from leaders in experiential as well as customer experience.

The student party animal is an endangered species: “56% said they spent £20 a week or less on socialising, defying the age-old stereotype of the hard-drinking, carefree student. This relative lack of partying and clubbing matches the trend seen in recent years: with 61% spending less than £20 a week on socialising in 2012.

“The proportion claiming they spent nothing at all on socialising, including on event tickets, cigarettes and alcohol, increased substantially, up from 14% in 2012 to 20% today.

“Those studying at modern universities were more likely to report cost-free social lives (23% did) than those at traditional universities (16%), perhaps reflecting their increased tendency to live at home.”

The majority will begin their careers owing more than £20k: A total of 58% of respondents believe they will leave university with debts of more than £20,000 – almost double the proportion (30%) two years ago. But pity a fifth of them who are totalling up much bigger debts: “Almost one in five students (17%) expect to leave university with over £40,000 of debt.”

It’s coming true: more and more are staying at home When tuition fees first loomed, experts said that the university landscape would change. The tradition of fleeing the family home to live hundreds of miles away in an exciting new city would begin to lose popularity. Increasingly young people would need to hunker down and stay living with their parents because they couldn’t afford to move.

This new research confirms the trend: “With students in 2014 expecting far higher debts than their counterparts in previous years, it is not surprising that more students are choosing to live with their parents or other family members to minimise expenses. This year, 19% of students said they live at home compared to 13% in 2008, 17% in 2010 and 18% in 2012.”

Staying in is the new going out: “Exactly half of students do most of their socialising within their own accommodation or that of friends (up from 42% in 2012) – the most popular form of enjoying free time.Of those who generally socialised outside their own homes, students preferred non-university venues, such as bars, pubs and clubs (26% of all students said these were their favoured destinations) to the student union or other university-associated venues (19% frequented these most often).Those at traditional universities were more likely to patronise university-run nightspots, with 24% favouring these places compared to 15% of students at modern institutions.”

They’re less and less interested in ethical products: “Student interest in how food is produced, and the welfare of farm animals, appears to have declined. A minority of students – albeit a substantial one – said they expected to see ethically-sourced food used in university-run shops, cafés and restaurants, while even fewer were willing to pay a premium for such items.

“Only 40% expected to see Fair Trade products in campus outlets, while free range products concerned just 39%, down from 63% in 2008. Just 34% wanted to eat locally-sourced food compared to 51% in 2008. Sustainable fish produce has also dropped significantly with 20% of students today expecting it – in 2008 46% thought it was important.

“This diminished commitment to ethical products was even more marked when it came to paying extra for them. Only 30% of respondents said they would pay more for Fair Trade products if they were available compared to 57% two years ago.”

They cook for themselves now – convenience food is so last decade: “Nearly three-quarters (74%) cooked a meal from scratch using only raw ingredients at least once a week, while that rose to 83% for students renting in the private sector. For many students (24%) cooking this way was likely to be a daily habit, with 24% saying they prepared a meal from scratch on six or more occasions in a typical week.”

Ditch the dirty burgers: healthy eating is important: “Far from their image as junk food consumers, most students (79%) make an effort to eat healthily, though most are careful not to let their desire for health food ‘dictate their life’ (61% took this approach).Those in the first year of study were more determined to eat healthy food than those in later years, with 19% saying it was ‘essential’ that they ate healthily compared to 17% of those in the second year or above.”

For the new generation, internet connectivity is number one: “When asked to select the five most important things when thinking about their accommodation some 24% of students in this type of accommodation listed Wifi connection as their number one priority for housing, ahead of cleanliness (22% put this top) and the existence of an ensuite bathroom (18%).Security was the main concern for 15%, while 8% said study space was key, as did 3% for launderette facilities.”

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