Results for the National Student Survey are out. But are the students happy?

 

The National Student Survey has been published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) since 2005. Its aim is to give a voice to millions of students about things that matter to them and, according to the Hefce, has helped to bring about significant and positive change to higher education.

Yet there has been much controversy surrounding its most recent results. And that’s because last year the National Union of Students encouraged students to reject the survey, on the basis that the results were going to help ministers decide whether universities should be allowed to raise their tuition fees: something of a touchy subject.

12 institutions – including Oxford and Cambridge – did as requested by their NUS, failing to reach the 50% response rate needed to validate their score. Yet of those results recorded, two leading universities fell short of the sector average for satisfaction. The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) had a 74% satisfaction rate (the lowest of all the Russell Group universities and 11% below the its benchmark). Whilst the University of Edinburgh scored 83%, which was 3% less than its benchmark.

The recently launched Teaching Excellence Framework which we reported on back in June is also much maligned. Its aim is to help students make informed choices about degree courses. It focuses on teaching quality; the learning environment and professional outcomes achieved by students with institutions being awarded a bronze, silver or gold award. But it too has come under criticism for concentrating too much on the satisfaction of the students and forcing institutions into pandering to their demands.

These surveys should be helping both parties. The TEF allows students to see what degree and institution might suit them best. And the NSS allows minsters, academics, student unions and others to make broader decisions as to how higher education is working for the students, or not.  Yet somehow, both parties have cause to find reasons as to why they work against them, and not for them. But surely having some kind of barometer is better than having no barometer at all?

Universities Minister, Jo Johnson, said “While overall student satisfaction remains high, we know there is significant variation in teaching quality and outcomes both within and between providers.

 “There is more to do to ensure that students and taxpayers investing heavily in our higher education system secure value for money from it.”

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

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Results for the National Student Survey are out. But are the students happy?