Males are most likely to be critical

September 23, 2005

The results of a national student survey make salutary reading, with courses and access at new and old universities coming under fire

Male students from ethnic minorities are the least happy with their university experience, according to England's higher education funding chief.

Sir Howard Newby, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, said emerging trends from the national student satisfaction survey show that ethnic minorities and male students are most likely to be critical of their courses.

He told The Times Higher : "There are slightly lower levels of satisfaction from ethnic minorities. Women are slightly more satisfied than men."

But he said there was no link between students' class backgrounds and how satisfied they are with their university.

Howoever, Brian Roper, vice-chancellor and chief executive of London Metropolitan University, argued that universities that invested heavily in recruiting students from disadvantaged backgrounds have come out worse in the survey than those that did not.

"Apart from the Open University, there seems to be a straight correlation between widening participation and satisfaction levels," he said. "The more money you give to widening participation, the lower the scores."

However, Michael Sterling, chair of the Russell Group, said students from high-achieving schools are more likely to be critical of their universities, leading to lower scores for older institutions.

He said: "If you went to an outstanding school and have done academically very well, you are likely to be much tougher because your expectations will be higher."

Almost 300,000 final-year students were sent the national student satisfaction survey in spring this year. More than 60 per cent responded from 141 higher education institutions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

To view the data and other information for students, visit </a>

'It's not the fault of the school'

Students at Cardiff University Medical School were surprised to discover this week that their school had come bottom in medicine in terms of student satisfaction - but they admitted they had frequent cause for complaint, writes Anna Fazackerley .

A final-year student, who asked not to be named, said that problems at the main teaching hospital in Cardiff were making students on the clinical part of their course particularly unhappy.

"Cardiff as a city is really great and I'm having an enjoyable time - but there are definitely issues in the medical school," the student said.

"Most of the problem is a lack of teaching when we are there and a lack of feedback throughout the year," the student said.

"For example they took such a long time to get our assessments back to us, we didn't know what we had done wrong or how to improve for next time."

Students complained about the delay in marking projects and were told that there simply weren't enough academic staff to cope with the volume of work flooding in from the trainee doctors.

Staff are under particular pressure because the school admits so many students. The student said that the final year has about 300 students and there had been a push to expand intake lower down the school.

"When we were down at the university site earlier in our course, the facilities were at maximum capacity. If they haven't added anything on I'd say they must be at bursting point with the extra students."

But the source said that trainee doctors in the school had not suffered at the hands of bullying consultants. "I haven't heard of any problems of that kind, although I know students elsewhere have faced bullying."

Had these negative survey results been available years ago, the student might have thought twice about applying to Cardiff to study medicine.

"They need to address these problems of course," the student added. "But it is not just the fault of the school. They need the Government to dish out more money to help them do that."

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