The International Student Lifestyle Survey finds increasingly stressed students value universities for being welcoming and rank a friendly atmosphere as most important to university selection process.

Shanghai, China, Jan. 16, 2018—Sodexo, world leader in quality of life services, today released its first-ever International Student Lifestyle Survey in China, which surveyed 4,000 students in the U.S., U.K., China, India, Italy and Spain from three continents for insights about ways to improve quality of life along students’ academic journeys.

The report is intended to drive an understanding of university students around the world and to help universities provide new offerings, living arrangements and studying spaces that alleviate students’ stress about studies, finances and/or careers after graduation.

The survey of undergraduates took students’ pulse on everything from what most influences their decision about where to attend university, to who is paying for their accommodations, to how much they’re exercising and sleeping, to their career plans (or lack thereof).The responses about the four stages of a student’s lifecycle—pre-arrival, arrival, living and departure—provide insight into universal student experiences and into those experiences where national culture and expectations make an enormous difference.

Colm O'MAHONY, CEO of Schools and Universities, Sodexo Asia Pacific, said: “The college and university industry is changing rapidly, in part because the expectations of Generation Z are much more fluid, varying quite a bit among student populations and from country to country. Our survey affirmed Sodexo’s understanding of this generation as more worldly and interested in campus services and opportunities that help them live a fast-paced, stress-free lifestyle. Meanwhile, it’s very important to today’s university students to be able to voice their concerns or opinions to their academic institutions. Universities have an opportunity and a responsibility to cultivate a profound understanding of what contributes to their students’ quality of life,from the design of student accommodations and traditional gathering spaces—libraries, study halls and courtyards—to the way they welcome international students who have very specific needs. Universities that reconfigure their operational model to suit these expectations will be much more effective at alleviating some of the mental, sociological and economic pressures that students around the world say they are under.”

Key findings include:

  • Overall quality of life of global students? Just OK. Across the six countries surveyed, most students report medium stress levels, medium levels of wellbeing and medium to high-quality living arrangements. And overall, students report being especially stressed out in their first month by the newness of university and adjusting to the differences between high school and university studies. The satisfaction of their life in universities of Chinese students is high at 76 percent, which is secondly only to Indian students (86 percent).
  • The worries and concerns of the average student vary significantly based on the country they study in. When it comes to which services are most attractive, U.S students are concerned about finances and how to minimize debt, while students in the U.K. prioritize facilities that support an active social life. India is more focused on studying, while China is concerned with both social life and ease of daily life.
  • Students consider both immediate priorities and long-term implications when selecting a university: When deciding which college to attend, a friendly atmosphere is the most important factor, mentioned by 78 percent of students. Reputation and ranking is almost as important, cited by three-quarters of respondents. Further, students value internet research about colleges (72 percent) more than advice from parents (62 percent), teachers (57 percent) and friends (49 percent). Chinese students are most likely to listen to the advice of parents and teachers than any other countries. They look for a campus university, and facilities supporting social lives and convenient living, meanwhile, 43 percent of Chinese students considered study facilities such as the library and 81 percent of them live in university accommodation.
  • There’s a global appetite to learn stress management and money management skills: Dealing with stress is the skill students most want to learn (50 percent), with money management a close second (48 percent). Globally, 30 percent of students have considered dropping out of university, with half blaming study-related problems, approximately one third citing their health or mental health, and one third saying the reasons are financial. However, only 5 percent of Chinese undergraduates had considered dropping out of university, which is a standout statistic globally. Like American students, Chinese students are the least likely to miss lectures (58 percent don’t miss any) or cut classes or seminars (the miss 0.7 each week).
  • Gen Z students are less “traditionally” social and more serious (and money is a contributing factor):Students are socializing less than might be expected. They look for cheap social activities and generally prioritize accommodations with facilities that focus on day-to-day living rather than recreational or social facilities. Their social life is one of the first things to be sacrificed to save money; 56 percent have saved money by not going out with friends.
  • Students value inclusive environments where they feel heard: Eighty three percent of students say it’s important that their university fosters an environment where they are free to voice their concerns or opinions. For example, just over half of students think their university is welcoming to new students, with students in Italy ranking their university the lowest on the welcoming scale (39 percent) and students in China largely rating their university as welcoming (84 percent). Different nationalities and ethnicities are more accepted by universities (65 percent) than different sexualities (58 percent) or gender identities (59 percent).
  • Students are more motivated by passion than money in their careers: Just over half of the students surveyed know what they want to do after graduation, and most students are more concerned about finding a job quickly (37 percent) or in a field they’re interested in (36 percent) than with earning a high salary (24 percent). Though Chinese students are with high satisfaction and less worried about getting the degree class, two thirds of them worried about their ability to get a job, above the global average, and 63 percent about finding a job after graduation. 67 percent of Chinese students have completed internship at university, well above the global average 37%. 

“Roughly two thirds of the Chinese students who were surveyed responded that their universities offer value for money, however we understand that there are additional initiatives the Chinese universities can do to improve the quality of life for students.” Adrian COPELAND, Segment Director of Schools and Universities of Sodexo China, stated, “For example, the Chinese students in this survey expect their universities to help them with living arrangements, employability, health and or mental health issues and have in place activities to improve the social aspect of life at universities, over 75 percent of Chinese students responded positively to these questions. The respondents are more likely to rate eating healthily as essential with the further introduction of low-calorie and sustainable produce/products.  This will go on to be a driving force and ensure that Chinese universities and their partners work extensively on improving their campus services so to improve the students’ quality of life and help them on their career development.”




Sodexo International University Lifestyle Survey Methodology

The survey builds on the success of Sodexo’s industry-leading, biennial University Lifestyle Survey of students in the U.K., which it has released since 2004. This is the first year Sodexo, which serves 8 million students a day at 1,000 universities in 32 countries, has conducted the survey globally.

The research was carried out in spring 2017 by YouthSight, which surveyed 4,027 students from six countries who completed questionnaires online. The sample included 1,008 U.S. students, 1,005 from the U.K., 507 from Italy, 500 from Spain, 505 from India and 502 from China, in all years of study. There was a 50/50 gender split in all countries except India where it was 70/30 male to female.

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