The National Student Survey (NSS) came out earlier this year and the long and the short of it is that students are getting less and less satisfied with both College and the Union. The Union has now published its list of recommendations it wanted College to enact to try and reverse the slump, all of which have been accepted.
So what is the NSS?
The National Student Survey is kind of self explanatory: final year students complete a survey just before they graduate, rating the university in several categories. 23 questions cover the eight categories of ‘Teaching’, ‘Assessment and Feedback’, ‘Academic Support’, ‘Organisation and Management’, ‘ Learning Resources’, ‘Personal Development’, and ‘ Students’ Union’. These then show College and the Union where they need to up their game, relative to either themselves or the wider university world.
And what did the NSS say this year?
Basically in six of the sectors Imperial is below the average score with only ‘Learning Resources’ and ‘Student’s Union’ bucking the trend. Learning resources also ranks us 11th in the country and the rest of the categories place us anywhere from 56th to a worrying 151st (out of 157 Higher Education Institutions). Overall our satisfaction was 83% which sounds pretty good until you realise this puts us 114th, with the national average being 86%. It’s also a 5% drop from ourselves a year ago. The most satisfied department is CivEng (96%) with Physics bringing up the rear (67%). Physics also dropped the most from last year, a decrease of 20% in satisfaction, quite the drop.
So what are the plans to solve this?
Below are the 16 recommendations that the Union feel that College and themselves need to act on. (We’ve paraphrased some of the boring Union language, don’t worry)
Teaching 1. Staff should work with students to improve teaching 2. Give credit to exceptional lecturers and allow them the freedom to try innovative teaching methods 3. Students should be given the opportunity to act as teaching consultants.
Assessment and Feedback 4. Traffic Light system to force feedback to be timely (two weeks late equals red) 5. Departmental leader(s) should be responsible for overseeing the quality of feedback, interacting with Academic Reps and students. 6. Students and staff should work closely to co-design assessment/feedback
Academic Support 7. Continue developing the Personal Tutor system, possibly via a Personal Tutor network. Consider splitting the academic and pastoral care aspects of the role. 8. Standardise the administration around mitigating circumstances
Organisation and Management 9. Compile all deadlines that a student may have, in order to spread them out evenly 10. Provide termly timetables in advance of term start dates (i.e. stick to the actual College policy)
Learning Resources 11. Look at how best to use space within college, especially at busy times 12. Make sure facilities are still world-class and push utilising digital technology for learning too
Personal Development 13. Ensure all departments agree a minimum amount of free time for students. Decided by Faculty working closely with students. 14. Make sure the skills employers want are in modules
The Union 15. Look at how to tell the students what the Union is actually doing. 16. Find how to engage students and allow them to make the changes they want.
What does it all mean?
This all depends on whether the recommendations are actually adhered to once enacted and are actually worthwhile. What the declining student satisfaction does mean is that it effects our overall ranking as a university. This has the potential to effect our place within the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the government policy which means your tuition fees rise by £250 next year. So that might change should Imperial keep falling.