Mark of quality sparks flurry of enthusiasm

May 19, 2006

Best Student Experience

Even the official Frisbees of the University of Wales, Swansea, advertise the fact that the institution won The Times Higher 's Best Student Experience 2005 award.

Across campus and beyond, university posters, banners, publications and bookmarks display the achievement. All of which, the university says, has helped to increase the number of applications to Swansea by 10 per cent compared with last year, against a national decline of 3.2 per cent.

Richard Davies, the vice-chancellor, said: "Swansea has long been one of the unsung successes of the UK higher education sector.

"Official recognition as the UK's Best Student Experience has brought this ambitious university to the attention of many prospective students, parents and commercial partners who may otherwise not have considered the city as a place to live, work and study.

"This is clear recognition of the genuine commitment of our caring staff and our superb location, safe environment and excellent sports facilities."

Referring to the latest spike in the number of applications, Professor Davies said: "Even though the award came late in the applications process, it has clearly had an effect on the level of interest.

"The university has also noticed an appreciable increase in interest from international students. The reputation of The Times Higher gives the award a credibility that some league tables and surveys do not offer and has helped raise Swansea's profile worldwide."

The vice-chancellor said the award was also an accolade for Swansea itself, which he said was widely recognised as one of the friendliest cities in the UK.

Paul Ramsden, chief executive of the Higher Education Academy, which is sponsoring this and the award for Outstanding Support for Students with Disabilities, said: "Each of these awards focuses on what matters most to the academy - the student learning experience. Everything we do helps institutions and staff to provide the best possible learning experience for their students.

"The award for Best Student Experience, based on an extensive survey of all UK students, will provide a unique opportunity to find out what students themselves think are the key components of a high-quality experience.

"Our work on the internationalisation of the curriculum and support for international students is clearly linked to the award for supporting overseas students. We hope that overseas students will take home a very positive message about higher education in the UK."

Outstanding Support for Students with Disabilities

Word has spread about Exeter University's Disability Resource Centre since it won a Times Higher award.

Prospective students and parents have phoned the centre with inquiries after hearing about the award. Sarah Doherty, its manager, said: "The award was a validation of the work carried out in the centre to support students towards achieving success.

"It often feels like this important work matters very much to the people who benefit from it, but it can be less visible to others. The congratulations received from colleagues and students was recognition that this is no longer the case.

"The centre's external profile was also raised and resulted in many inquiries from prospective students and parents who specifically mentioned the award.

"It was clearly understood as a measure of the quality of support available at Exeter."

She added: "Winning the award has given us a reputation to live up to and continued enthusiasm and commitment to the provision of exceptional support for students with disabilities."

Mr Ramsden said: "We are committed to supporting staff in responding to an increasingly diverse student body, and we recognise that there are particular challenges in ensuring equality of educational opportunity for disabled students. So we are delighted to join The Times Higher in recognising and rewarding people who have made outstanding contributions in this area."

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Put your view

The Higher Education Academy and The Times Higher are looking for university colleagues to join a joint student-staff forum to debate today's student experience.

The discussion will be online and open to the public, but forum members will be required to post responses to issues raised at least fortnightly during the autumn.

Pertinent topics will be followed up in The Times Higher , and it is hoped that the debate will inform good practice and policy.

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