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Wired campus key to student recruitment

Universities are under increasing pressure to offer incoming students access to state-of-the-art technology because of the increased fees they are being asked to pay, according to a report published this week.

More than nine out of 10 lecturers say that tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year are leading them to question the value for money received by students, with more than four in five saying they feel mounting pressure to offer better facilities.

About 1,000 existing and prospective students and some 50 lecturers were canvassed for the Digital Campus report.

More than half the students (58 per cent) say having access to computers and the latest software is one of the most important factors when choosing an institution - more so than having well-qualified and accessible lecturers (53 per cent).

About half the students questioned (45 per cent) point to increased fees when asked to justify their desire for the latest technology, while 51 per cent say it will help them develop the "essential skills" they need for the workplace.

"Just having access to the internet, email and standard software programmes such as Word is no longer enough," the report says.

One example cited is Coventry University, which will equip all its art and design students this year with a Macbook - although it is the students who ultimately have to pay for it as those studying technology-heavy courses will pay higher fees than those on classroom-based degree programmes.

"We didn't feel we could stand up in front of students and parents and say that everything costs the same to teach," the university's pro vice-chancellor Ian Dunn told Times Higher Education. "Universities that fail to offer access to the right equipment will be seen by students as out of date when they are making decisions about the suitability of the course, which could, of course, have consequences for that course."

The report, which was commissioned by the technology company Adobe, concludes that vice-chancellors need to review their current ICT strategies in order to meet the growing expectations of the next wave of students.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com.

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