Sodexo Unveils Global Survey of University Students: Decoding the Purpose-Driven Gen Z
Jan 31, 2018

Singapore, 29 January 2018 – Sodexo, world leader in Quality of Life services, has released its first-ever International Student Lifestyle Survey. Students from China and India were among 4000 students from 6 countries across 3 continents - including Italy, Spain, U.K., and U.S. - to provide insights about ways to improve quality of life along students’ academic journeys in this inaugural global edition.

The report drives an understanding of university students around the world and helps universities provide new offerings, living arrangements and studying spaces that alleviate students’ stress about studies, finances and careers after graduation. As students become increasingly diverse and cosmopolitan, these findings provide relatable insights into university life regionally and globally.

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 culture and expectations make an enormous difference.

Colm O'MAHONY, CEO, Schools & 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. 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. Yet, Chinese and Indian students’ satisfaction with lives tops the list, at 82% and 76% respectively.

• 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% of students. Reputation and ranking is almost as important, cited by three-quarters of respondents. Further, students value internet research about colleges (72%) more than advice from parents (62%), teachers (57%) and friends (49%).

• 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%), with money management a close second (48%). Globally, 30% 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% of Chinese undergraduates have considered dropping out of university, which may correlate with the difficulty of getting into college.

• 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%) or in a field they’re interested in (36 %) than with earning a high salary (24%). Though Chinese students are generally satisfied with university life, two thirds of them worried about their ability to get a job, well above the global average.

• Professional experience is valuable: 67% of Chinese students and 54% of Indian students have done an internship during the course of their studies, well above the global average of 37%, showing eagerness in gaining early exposure to working life.

• Academics matter more for Indian and Chinese students: the ranking of the university was significantly more important to them than the students from US. They are also the keenest to improve their knowledge.
• Health is wealth: Indian students are the fittest among students from across the world. They get at least 30 minutes of exercise 4.7 times a week, compared with the average of 3.4 times globally.

• 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 prioritise 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% have saved money by not going out with friends.

The inaugural International Universities Lifestyle Survey builds on the success of Sodexo’s industry-leading, biennial University Lifestyle Survey of students in the U.K., which has been 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.


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Yin Kuan Chek

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