Marginal dip in student satisfaction

But NSS 2009 shows slight rise in assessment and feedback rating. Hannah Fearn reports

August 6, 2009

Student satisfaction has fallen over the past year, according to data from the 2009 National Student Survey (NSS).

Overall satisfaction with UK universities remains high, with 81 per cent of students satisfied with their courses, but the figure is down on the 82 per cent recorded last year. Four fifths of students expressed some satisfaction with the courses they studied.

Medics expressed the greatest satisfaction with teaching. The Medway School of Pharmacy came top, with 97 per cent of its students satisfied with their education overall.

Brighton and Sussex Medical School came second, with a 95 per cent satisfaction rating. Both institutions were included in the poll for the first time.

The Open University came third in the table, with 94 per cent of its students happy with their courses.

Students at the University of the Arts London were the least satisfied – just 63 per cent said they were happy. At London Metropolitan University, only 68 per cent of students were satisfied.

Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, said he was concerned about the dip in overall levels of satisfaction as the first group of students to pay top-up fees prepares to graduate.

“There is clearly no room for complacency on the part of universities, who have a responsibility to improve standards in accordance with their increased resources,” he said.

However, Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, said she was pleased that so many students continued to rate their universities so highly.

She said: “It is particularly reassuring at a time of economic uncertainty when students may be understandably anxious about their job prospects.”

Students were most satisfied with the teaching on their courses, with 83 per cent happy with the quality of teaching and learning.

Learning resources also scored highly, with 80 per cent of students satisfied.

Satisfaction with assessment and feedback rose marginally, from 64 per cent last year to 65 per cent this year.

Janet Beer, chair of the NSS steering group and vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, said: “There is a particularly pleasing upward trend in the percentage of students satisfied with the processes of assessment and feedback.

“This is an area in which universities are constantly – in partnership with their students – striving for improvement.”

Further education colleges delivering higher education participated in the survey for the second time. Their overall satisfaction rating was lower than universities’ – just 75 per cent said they were happy with their courses.

More students took part in the NSS than ever before: 223,363 students completed the survey, with an overall response rate of 62 per cent among UK students.

David Lammy, Minister for Higher Education, said the satisfaction rates “demonstrate that our higher education system is continuing to meet the challenge of providing a rewarding and quality experience to students across the country”.

Nigel Carrington, rector, University of the Arts London, said: “Since becoming rector in September 2008, I have made improving the student experience and finding additional resources for teaching and student-facing activities our top priority. Major changes are being implemented but some will take time to show results.”

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