'Encouraging' survey reveals most students are satisfied with teaching

But standards at older institutions are rated as higher than those at new, says Rebecca Attwood

November 20, 2008

The vast majority of students are happy with the amount of contact they get with their lecturers, according to a survey for the National Union of Students (NUS).

Despite evidence that students are demanding more contact hours in return for paying tuition fees, a poll of more than 3,000 undergraduates has found that students receive an average of 15 contact hours a week, and 75 per cent are satisfied with the amount they get.

Most students thought highly of the quality of the teaching they receive, but standards at old universities were rated more highly than those at post-1992 institutions.

Eighty-nine per cent of students in the Russell Group of research-intensive universities rated the teaching they received as good to excellent, against 82 per cent of students at post-1992 universities.

On average, students at old universities receive slightly more contact hours - 16 a week compared with 14 at new institutions, although this does not take into account the different subjects offered at different institutions.

Aaron Porter, the NUS vice-president for higher education, said it was "very encouraging" that most students, regardless of their institution, expressed satisfaction with their teaching and that three-quarters were happy with contact hours.

"However, it is depressingly predictable that richer institutions are able to offer their students more contact time with tutors," he said.

"We would like the upcoming review of higher education funding to look at how we can address the needs of all students and all institutions, as opposed to pitting richer and poorer universities against each other in a market environment."

First-year students - who enjoyed more contact hours on average - were significantly more likely than final-year students to rate the quality of teaching as good to excellent.

At Russell Group universities, an average of 41 per cent of contact time was provided by professors, 39 per cent by senior lecturers, 7 per cent by researchers, and 12 per cent by postgraduates. The figures at new universities were 32 per cent, 57 per cent, 6 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively.

Overall, students studied outside the classroom for an average of 16 hours a week on top of seminars and lectures. At Russell Group universities, students spent an average of 17 hours a week in private study, compared with 15 hours a week at other universities.

Those studying mass communications and documentation spent the least time working, clocking up 13 contact hours and 11 private-study hours each week.

Students of medicine and life sciences, and those of architecture, building and planning were the hardest working, each registering a total of 34 study hours a week.

Asked about the quality of their interaction with staff, 65 per cent of Russell Group students rated their professors as good or excellent, against 62 per cent in pre-1992 universities and 43 per cent in post-1992 institutions.

Researchers and postgraduates were not rated highly: overall, only 20 per cent of students rated their researchers good or excellent, as did 24 per cent when asked to rate postgraduates, and both groups received the lowest ratings at new universities.

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com

  • The full NUS Student Experience Report will be published on 25 November. See www.nus.org.uk.

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