Great, another layer of league table 'insight'

February 24, 2011

The Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey raises three concerns about such national surveys ("Taking everything into consideration", 17 February).

First, institutions are beginning to recognise that closing the feedback loop is an important part of motivating students to engage in quality enhancement processes. However, this clearly remains an elusive goal.

Second, how do surveys such as this help to improve the situation at the institutional level, surely a fundamental purpose for conducting them? They may provide shock treatment, but is there enough detail to inform effective management decisions? Isn't there a danger that existing processes will be undermined?

Third, national feedback processes have, so far, succeeded only in creating yet another layer of league tabling, one of "student positivity". This is flawed because it ignores important institutional differences, especially demographic and discipline-related ones.

The survey shows very little that we did not already know - and this, almost 10 years after Sir Ron Cooke's report, Information on Quality and Standards in Higher Education (2002).

James Williams, Centre for Research into Quality Birmingham City University

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