Students “more satisfied than ever before”

According to the Times Higher Education analysis of the latest NSS data, students are more satisfied than they’ve ever been.

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. 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.”

But is this really telling us very much about the real quality of the student experience? Especially when you note the following:

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.”

I’m sure students at Buckingham have a distinctive experience but the reasons for this result are perhaps a bit more complicated than suggested here. Still, the NSS does at least provide much-needed fodder (or core data on the quality of the student experience) for the league table compilers.

The full data is available from Hefce. The THE rankings are as follows:

Most-satisfied students
Institution 2005 2006 2007 2008
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
Loughborough University 88 88 89 91
Harper Adams University College 90 86 91 90
Aberystwyth University 87 90 90 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 table shows 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.”
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New Conservative position on fees?

Which seems to be: neither higher nor lower, we should neither raise nor lower the cap

According to a Guardian report on a recent speech:

The Conservatives today called for the review of tuition fees planned for 2009 to start now to allow for enough preparation time. The government has promised a review of the increased tuition fees regime in two years. But, in a speech at Sheffield University, shadow universities secretary David Willetts said: “A proper review takes time. We do not need to make a decision any sooner than the government suggests – but why waste this two years which could be spent collecting data, talking to people, or analysing what is happening?

“We are not calling for the cap to be lifted and we are not calling for it to be lowered. Nobody knows enough about tuition fees and their impact to make any decisions at all on this issue,” he said.

Suggesting that a review be brought forward a bit does not appear to represent a bold new position.

Moreover, we need more information:

Mr Willetts also urged universities to give students and their parents more information about contact hours, class sizes and employability before they start courses. “Students and their parents are not simply concerned about the cost of higher education. They care about quality. Students now regard themselves as customers, and they want to know that they are investing in the right student experience. He claimed the national student survey was being manipulated by universities and called for a national student experience website to pull together information on research ratings, drop-out rates, library facilities and university estates, as well as contact hours, class sizes and employability.

Sounds a bit like a combination of the Sunday Times League Table and the data recently produced by HEPI – see earlier post on this topic. And isn’t this what the new (as yet unlaunched) Unistats site is largely intended to address?