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University students in control of computer buying journey, and spend $650+ on their primary device

For nearly three-quarters of students preparing for university in the USA and UK, buying a computer is a key step on the journey. And around half of them choose to purchase a different type of device to the one they used in high school.

That’s according to a new market research report from Futuresource Consulting. The study, conducted with more than 3,000 students across the USA and UK, also uncovers some behavioural shifts and trends that are reshaping the landscape.

“Control sits squarely in the hands of the student,” says Claire Kerrison, Principal Analyst, Futuresource Consulting. “Our research shows that they typically pay for their primary computing device with their own money, and they are not influenced by the advice of friends and family.

“However, younger students are less likely to have bought their primary computing device specifically to use at university. Purchases are increasingly being made while students are still studying at high school. This rising belief that the current computing device is good enough for university could be due to teenagers demanding higher performance machines for esports or content creation.”

Male students spending more

The research shows that students spent, on average, over $650 on their primary computing device. Key features that influenced the purchase decision included durability long battery life, large storage capacity, and great value for money.

Across the USA and UK, male students spent around 12% more than their female peers, and had a higher preference for specialist gaming devices.

Social, leisure and entertainment overshadows learning

“We’re seeing university students now using their primary device to engage in social, leisure and entertainment activities more than academic purposes,” says Kerrison. “In fact, only around 60% of students used their machines to access course content and learning resources. Plus, despite having high-end computing devices, over 55% of students in the USA and UK used university-owned computers on campus at least once a week.”

The future is free

Looking to the future, most high school students in the USA expect to be offered a device for free upon future enrolment. This differs largely to current university students, where over half were not offered a device at all. This suggests a growing number of universities are investing in a large quantity of devices in a bid to attract prospective students.

How this will impact purchasing trends of primary computing devices is yet to be seen. As highlighted by Futuresource, university students have a preference for premium products, so the free device provided by the university may be used as a companion device.

Futuresource Consulting’s Student Journey report analyses the devices adopted by students while studying at university and how this differs from the primary device used at high school, including purchasing motivations and brand choice. For more information on this report or to make a purchase, please contact Fiona McGill at


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Claire Kerrison

About the author

Claire Kerrison

Claire Kerrison leads the Education team, overseeing Futuresource’s quarterly K-12 PC tracker and end-user research programs. Claire is closely involved in the formation and delivery of custom projects covering the EdTech sphere.

Claire joined Futuresource in 2011 from the University of Birmingham where she collaborated on a broad range of market tracking and strategic projects covering the Displays industry. Claire went on to lead the Displays team, with a focus on developments in the Front Projector market.

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