This year’s HEPI/HEA Student experience Survey has been published, and can be downloaded from here.
The key outcomes highlighted are:
- Full-time undergraduate students in UK universities express high levels of satisfaction with their courses: 86% are fairly or very satis?ed with their course
- While 50% of students experiencing classes of between 1 and 5 other students
?nd them ‘a lot’ bene?cial, the ?gure is only 10% for those with classes of more than 100 students. On average ?rst years have 3.0 of their weekly contact hours in classes of over 100.
- Undergraduate students in their ?rst and second years have an average of 14.2 contact hours per week during term time and complete another 14.3 hours of private study on top
- Those with between 0 and 9 contact hours are notably less satis?ed than those with between 20 and 29 contact hours
- More than four out of ten full-time undergraduate students (44%) think they are receiving very good or good value for money, compared with one-quarter (25%) who consider they are receiving very poor or poor value for money
- When asked about their top three priorities for institutional expenditure, 48% of undergraduates chose ‘reducing fee levels’
- However, four further clear priorities emerge, each chosen by over one-third of students:
• more teaching hours (35%);
• smaller class sizes (35%);
• better training for lecturers (34%); and
• better learning facilities (34%)
Digging further into the report, then differences appear based on which mission group universities are aligned to, and also by subject discipline.
I was particularly interested in some of the information presented around contact hours, and specifically why students chose not to attend sessions (bearing in mind the current narrative of students as customers who are paying up to £9000 a year where one might expect 100% attendance).
Students wanted more contact hours, yet many times don’t attend for the following reasons:
Looking at the top two reasons for failure to attend raises questions –
- How do we make the classes more relevant and unmissable?
- Does putting notes online reduce the need to attend a lecture?
With regard to having notes or slides online – this can only be a good thing for those students who genuinely miss a class, or who want to read in advance of attending class. Online learning materials should be more than just the lecture handouts.
On student workload, it’s notable that many students appear to be engaging with fewer learning hours than is expected by QAA. As a possible way to remedy this, do we really think enough about what self directed study entails? Are we, certainly for level 4 students, providing enough guidance on what they should be studying, reading, engaging with, outside of the scheduled time in class? Can we make a very simple change of spelling this out in module handbooks and guides to ensure our students learn in the way that we would like them to and that we manage their expectations of how much work they should be doing?
Not surprisingly, under expectations of value for money, students are less satisfied with what they feel they are receiving.
When asked what their spending priorities would be, students replied as:
As identified in the report, after fees the priorities are: “increasing teaching hours: decreasing class sizes; better training for lecturers; and better learning facilities (as
distinct from better buildings, which is not ranked so highly). It is notable that the higher ranked areas relate to improving the quality of teaching and learning and the lower ranked areas relate more to extra-curricular and environmental issues such as sports facilities and better security on campus. Giving academics more time for research was not ranked highly despite the promotion of ‘research-led teaching’ in many institutions.”
I think there are some interesting areas for further discussion here, with implications for different constituencies:
For the university:
- How do we make sure we deliver the right kind of learning in small groups?
- Can we manage expectations of workload better?
- How do we provide a focus on student experience?
- How do we explore the reason students don’t attend ?(do we know if they are not attending?)
- What could we do to make class sessions unmissable?
- Can we square the circle of providing more smaller classes, with greater contact hours with better qualified lecturers?
- How do we improve our online materials?
For senior staff:
- how do we respond to the challenges on spending priorities?
- How do we lobby the next government on student and university financing?