NSS: can things get any worse in universities?

Press stories on latest NSS results seem to be largely of the glass one fifth empty variety

Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking the sector was already in meltdown if you read the Independent which says “one-third of university students unhappy with lecturers’ performance”:

Thousands of university students still find their lecturers too remote despite pledges that standards of service would improve with the introduction of top-up fees of up to £3,225 a year. A national survey by the Higher Education Funding Council for England showing the level of student satisfaction with their courses reveals there has been no improvement in three years. Overall, 82 per cent are satisfied with their course – but the figure dips to 67 per cent when it comes to assessment of their work and the feedback they get from lecturers.

The BBC has a similar line:

UK students’ satisfaction with their undergraduate courses has stalled, the National Student Survey has found. Overall, 82% of finalists at UK universities in 2010 were satisfied with the quality of their course, the same percentage as last year. Universities warn satisfaction ratings could deteriorate as funding cuts bite. The NSS, in which 252,000 students took part, is published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) to help maintain standards.

But really. OK, there remains plenty of scope for improvement, particularly in the area of feedback to students on their work but to deliver an overall satisfaction rating of more than 80% over such a large number of students is surely hugely positive? So why are universities getting a kicking for this? Presumably even an average satisfaction rating of 90% plus would be inadequate.

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5 thoughts on “NSS: can things get any worse in universities?

  1. I though Nottingham was aiming to be in the top 20 – looks like they have a long way to go. It makes you wonder what all the money was spent on. Perhaps the lecturers need a tick up he back side in order to get them to spend time actually explaining essay marks to students and how they can get a better mark next time as opposed to a mark and illegible comments.

  2. Taking these survey figures as gospel is ridiculous. First, what proportion of students actually bother to respond to the survey? Second, the ones that do are surely more likely to moan than not – how many students are going to say everything’s fine? Third, what standards are the students applying? How can they arrive at an objective measure of what constitutes a good experience? As a lecturer in English literature, I have on numerous occasions had to explain to students that yes, they have to read all these books on the syllabus, and yes, all the way through. I expect they marked me down for that- should I have said “No, it’s fine, Lit students don’t have to read anything”?

  3. The University of Nottingham was 79th in 2007, 42nd in 2009 and 30th overall this year so yes, there is still some way to go. However, the target set in the latest University Plan is to get to 20th overall by 2014-15 so this does represent good progress towards that goal.

    • Thanks for the reply Paul. Do you know when the 2010-2015 universty plan will be publihed. It is just that the Nottingham website said July 2010, yet no sign of it?

      Another question if i may. I have noticed that the univeristy has stopped publishing on its planning website the individual course data such as applicants per place rations and average UCAS tariff scores for each department. Is there any reason for this and will it come back? It is just that it’s an interesting source for applicants and most other universities have a similar page somewhere.

  4. The University Plan will be published soon – suspect it will be September though rather than July. Apologies for that

    I think at least some of the data you’re looking for can be found here:

    http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/planning/statistics/2009-10/List-pdf.html

    More detail though is University access only.

    You might though find some useful data on the HESA website:

    http://www.hesa.ac.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1197&Itemid=266

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