LONDON, Sep 26 (Reuters) Research showing British students are the least hard-working in Europe rang ''alarm bells'' for the country's higher education policy, a leading think-tank warned.
The workload and standard of degree awarded in Britain varied significantly between universities and the courses offered, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) study revealed.
Despite British students paying some of the highest fees in the world, the study found European students studied harder.
The report, which included both the teaching time and private study element of a student's degree, found that those at British universities studied for, on average, only 20 hours a week -- the lowest in Europe.
The institute's director and the report's co-author, Bahram Bekhradnia, said the study's findings rang ''alarm bells for the future''.
''It raises some challenging questions for those who run universities,'' Bekhradnia said. It raises dangers (about) ...
the reputation of our universities and particularly about our share of overseas students.
''If it becomes universally perceived that our students do not get very much for their money in this country, then that could start to affect our universities -- and affect our ability to attract overseas students.'' The study came after the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that Britain's world ranking as one of the highest producers of university graduates had tumbled as other countries invest more heavily in education.
Tuesday's HEPI report, based on research from 15,000 students, found many students worked significantly less per week as they struggle to keep part-time jobs.
While those on courses such as medicine and dentistry generally worked 35-hour weeks, others in arts-related courses such as media studies did just 20.
In a commentary, Graham Gibbs said the figures indicated that British students could enrol full-time but actually study only part-time.
''It is unlikely UK students are significantly more able,'' said the former director of the Institute for the Advancement of University Learning at Oxford University.
''A plausible conclusion is that demands on UK students are lower in terms of expectations of study hours or in the standard expected to gain credits -- or both.'' A spokesman for Universities UK, which represents the country's vice-chancellors, cast doubt on the findings.
''We would caution against coming to any sweeping conclusions based on the survey's limited sample size and because the results relate mostly to feedback from first-year students who are only in their second term.'' Reuters KK VP0420