Students more satisfied than ever before
Most are happy with teaching but assessment is still a concern, reports Melanie Newman
Overall student satisfaction is higher than ever before, according to the results of the 2008 National Student Survey.
For universities in England, students' overall satisfaction rate rose slightly from 81 per cent last year to 82 per cent, while satisfaction scores in six specific areas, including teaching, assessment and academic support, also all increased.
Students are most satisfied with the teaching they receive, with 83 per cent reporting general satisfaction. But satisfaction with "assessment and feedback" remained lower than in other areas, at 64 per cent.
A total of 149 higher education institutions from across the UK took part in the survey, with almost 210,000 students taking part.
Minister for Students Delyth Morgan said: "The continued high level of satisfaction is a welcome testament to the quality of the teaching and learning experience in this country."
The National Union of Students welcomed the improved scores, but expressed concern that students taking higher education courses in further education colleges were less satisfied than their counterparts studying in universities. Only 58 per cent of students taking higher education courses in further education colleges agreed that their course was well organised and managed, compared with 71 per cent of those studying in universities.
The top UK satisfaction score of 96 per cent went to the University of Buckingham, a private institution. Vice-chancellor Terence Kealey said: "This is the third year that we've come top because we are the only university in Britain that focuses on the student rather than on government or regulatory targets. Every other university should copy us and become independent."
Bishop Grosseteste University College scored 92 per cent, up from 87 per cent in 2007. Principal Muriel Robinson said this was a result of listening to students. "We take what they say very seriously and we act on what we hear," she said.
The University of Sussex was among the most improved institutions, scoring 86 per cent, up from 78 per cent in 2007. Vice-chancellor Michael Farthing said: "We identified the areas in which we were failing - library resources, advice and support to students, feedback - and got staff and students involved in producing action plans."
The GuildHE mission group, representing smaller and specialist higher education institutions, said the results showed that students were happiest when studying in institutions that paid them the most personal attention. Alice Hynes, chief executive of GuildHE, said common features among nearly all of the institutions with top satisfaction ratings were the presence of a collegiate environment that focused on developing the whole student, and a relatively small size that made it easier to give students personal attention.
As it did last year, the University of the Arts London came bottom of the satisfaction league, with 63 per cent. Will Bridge, deputy rector, said: "The student experience remains at the heart of what we do, and we will continue to work with the Students' Union to identify ways to improve."
Anglia Ruskin University's overall satisfaction rating fell eight percentage points in a year to 66 per cent. Paul McHugh, director of student services, said the university's internal surveys of postgraduate and undergraduate students had "always been at odds with the NSS" but said that this year "the disparity was greater than ever". "For example, 76 per cent of our students would recommend Anglia Ruskin to a friend while only 6 per cent would definitely not; these figures are a puzzlingly long way from the NSS's overall satisfaction score," he said.
Southampton Solent University's overall score fell from 76 per cent in 2007 to 68 per cent. A spokesperson said: "At a time when the university's courses are more popular than ever and graduate employment is at an all-time high, we are surprised and disappointed at our NSS score. We have no immediate explanation but we take our students' feedback - and the quality of their experience with us - very seriously and we will be looking into the matter."
Ruth Farwell, vice-chancellor of Bucks New University, which had a satisfaction rating of 68 per cent, said that some scores for teaching in specific departments were very high, but added: "We actively encourage critical debate ... and have not sought to influence the feedback given by students. We have had the university title for less than a year, and are part-way through a major campus redevelopment project. We are convinced that the changes will have a significant impact on student satisfaction in future years."
|University of Buckingham||94||93||96|
|Royal Academy of Music||95||81||90||94|
|The Open University||95||95||95||94|
|University of St Andrews||92||94||93|
|Courtauld Institute of Art||100||81||74||93|
|University of Cambridge||93|
|University of Oxford||92||92|
|University of East Anglia||88||89||89||92|
|Birkbeck, University of London||90||91||92||92|
|Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln||88||89||87||92|
|University of Leicester||89||89||90||92|
|University of Exeter||86||85||91||91|
|University of Aberdeen||88||91|
|Harper Adams University College||90||86||91||90|
|St George’s Hospital Medical School||86||80||87||90|
|Institute of Education||83||80||90|
|University of Kent||86||86||88||90|
|University of Sheffield||86||84||87||89|
|The tables show the percentage of students, full and part time, who “definitely” or “mostly” agreed with the statement: “Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of my course.”|
|University of the Arts London||63||64||63|
|Anglia Ruskin University||78||75||74||66|
|University College for the Creative Arts||66||65||65||67|
|Leeds College of Music||0||53||68|
|Southampton Solent University||72||76||68|
|Bucks New University||71||73||68||68|
|Leeds Metropolitan University||75||72||68||70|
|London Metropolitan University||67||70||72|
|University of East London||76||73|
|University of Westminster||74||74||74||73|
|Birmingham City University||72||76||74||74|
|Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts||75|
|Thames Valley University||67||73||75|
|Manchester Metropolitan University||76||74||78||75|
|London South Bank University||80||75|
|University of Huddersfield||83||80||75||76|
|University of Wales, Newport||80||78||73||76|
|University College Falmouth||79||69||78||76|
|To allow a comparison with previous years, only the responses of students actually taught in the institutions concerned are included. Those taking the institutions’ courses, but registered at partner further education colleges, are not included. NHS students are not included. See www.hefce.ac.uk/learning/nss/data/2008|
|How students rated specific areas in England|
|2007 NSS||2008 NSS|
|% reporting satisfaction|
|The teaching on my course||82||83|
|Assessment and feedback||62||64|
|Organisation and management||71||73|
FOREIGNERS FLOCK TO STUDY IN UK
The UK continues to be an attractive destination for foreign students and is second only to the United States overall, says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) annual Education at a Glance report.
The UK has the sixth-highest number of science graduates per 100,000 employed in the 25-34 age group, ahead of Germany and Japan.
The UK's high degree-completion rate resulted in a supply of graduates above the OECD average, despite average levels of enrolment.
The OECD reports that the UK is unusual in that the proportion of new higher education entrants is highest in humanities, art and education. In most countries, the majority of students study social sciences, law and business.
Universities UK, however, said the report showed that the UK remains below average for public investment in higher education, investing 0.9 per cent of gross domestic product.