Eight out of 10 HE students satisfied with their courses
Students at UK higher education institutes (HEIs) and further education colleges (FECs) are largely satisfied with their courses, with 83 per cent stating that they were happy with their higher education experience, according to this year’s National Student Survey (NSS). A mere nine per cent said they were dissatisfied with their course, with eight per cent stating they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.
An estimated 265,000 final-year students took part in the survey, from 154 HEIs and 99 FECs from across the UK – a response rate of 65 per cent, which is the best ever.
Satisfaction has either improved or stayed the same in each of the seven categories the study covers, with 84 per cent of students satisfied with the quality of teaching, and 77 per cent having no complaints about the level of academic support they received.
“As Chair of the steering group that oversees the development of more accessible and better quality information for prospective students and their families, it is very pleasing to have the highest response rates ever, ensuring that the NSS is a really good barometer of student opinion,” said Professor Janet Beer, who is also Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University.
The results of the survey, which was conducted by Ipsos MORI, will help universities and colleges improve the education they provide, as well as providing valuable insight and information for prospective students.
Liam Burns, National President of the National Union of Students, said: “The NSS is an important tool for identifying areas of concern among students. It is crucial that institutions work in partnership with students to make improvements where they have been shown to be necessary.
“The results show only very slight increases in overall student satisfaction, and at a time of severe funding pressure it is more important than ever that students are involved in shaping their curriculum…[but] after years of work by students and students’ unions, it’s good to see some modest improvement in assessment and feedback scores.”
While modest improvement was the overarching theme, some universities posted exceptional levels of improvement, none more so than Brunel University, which was the biggest climber in the NSS rankings, shooting from 118 to 40.
“The improvements in the National Student Survey are the result of years of hard work by university staff and the Students’ Union in listening carefully to students’ needs and investing appropriately in our campus, its facilities and additional learning resources,” said Professor Chris Jenks, Brunel’s Vice-Chancellor.
Room for improvement
Such positive results, while universally welcomed throughout the sector, were taken with a pinch of salt by some commentators.
“These excellent results yet again demonstrate that our universities and colleges provide a high-quality experience for their students,” said Sir Alan Langlands, HEFCE Chief Executive. “That said, there is no room for complacency. The survey provides vital information to inform students’ choices – and with changes in financing of higher education, we can be sure the NSS will only grow in importance.”
Minister for Universities, David Willets, echoed Langlands’ words of warning. “This survey shows that student satisfaction is high on average. This is welcome news. No wonder record numbers of young people at home and abroad wish to study at our world-class universities,” he said.
“But clearly there are some areas, such as the quality of feedback, where many institutions could do better. Our higher education reforms aim to put students in the driving seat, and to deliver a new focus on the quality of the student experience.
“We are committed to ensuring the best possible match between students and institutions. We will improve the information available about different courses, make universities more accountable to their students, and promote more diverse provision.”