A response to the Student Satisfaction Debate

The following article was published for the second edition of this year’s Western Eye, which is out now. Read more online at www.westerneye.net.

For those of you who don't know me, my name is JJ and I am the Vice-President Education at UWE Students' Union.

After reading last month's front page article entitled 'UWE student success and satisfaction soars' two things came to mind. Firstly, alliteration really does allow for a catchy title. Secondly, the discussions I've been having with staff and students over last few months paint a rather different picture than the one outlined in Philip Mansel's article. As Phil rightly pointed out, UWE have risen to 49th in The Guardian league tables, which is a key indicator for students looking for university choices. However, I felt compelled to share my experiences and knowledge to provide a little food for thought for all the readers.

Another key factor for prospective university students is by looking at a popular website called unistats.com. Unistats compares university courses nationwide and gives statistics on various aspects of the course. This information is also published on university websites and prospectuses.

This information is gathered from an annual survey called the National Student Survey (NSS), and is completed from February-May by all final year undergraduate students. This is then to improve the provision of education at their institution.

So how did UWE fare? Well, education geeks like myself will know already that UWE has slipped 2% in overall satisfaction of their students to 84%, which is 2% lower than the sector average. One redeeming factor perhaps is that this is marginally better than the University of Bristol. But should we look to our competitors or focus on improving our own academic quality?

Next autumn UWE will be visited by a team of reviewers from the Quality Assurance Agency and they will match UWE against a set of national benchmarks. As part of this review, I'm tasked with writing a Student Written Submission on behalf of the student body. I'm committed to ensuring the student voice comes across strongly and all students are represented fairly. I'll be working diligently to ensure that UWE strives to improve satisfaction at the institution.

It is great that when UWE students graduate 96% end up with a job within the next 6 months, but when only 84% were satisfied we must ask ourselves - what is the priority here, making students happy or successful? I believe satisfaction and engagement are the key drivers to success, and when we get the engagement with students’ right, more success will follow.

In unity,

JJ

Email me your views on student satisfaction and the NSS at vpeducation@uwe.ac.uk