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The National Student Survey (NSS) has made its annual appearance this January with Lancaster University claiming a spot in the top 10 universities for graduate job opportunities. The NSS compares opinions of a quarter of a million final year students from universities and colleges across the UK, and provides comparison of the participating Higher Education Institutions. The survey has been an important tool for University House since its launch in 2005. Directly interacting with the student population has given them the opportunity to gain valuable insight into the current student experience and identify any areas for improvement.
SCAN spoke to Pro Vice-Chancellor Amanda Chetwynd who acknowledged that “The students themselves are the experts on what it’s like to study here and we hope they will pass on the good news about the excellent courses available. The results reflect the dedication of staff who work hard to ensure that every student who comes here will receive the very best education.” She continued: “We listen carefully to what our students tell us and we are pleased to hear that our final year students are satisfied with the quality of education on offer at Lancaster.”
The NSS compares opinions of a quarter of a million final year students from universities and colleges across the UK, and provides comparison of the participating Higher Education Institutions. Within Lancaster University the assessment and feedback satisfaction scores have risen from an average rating in 2007 to becoming featured in the top quartile for performance in 2013.
Departments look carefully at the feedback and the comments given by the students, and create an action plan which is discusses with staff student committees. As a result of the survey, the University has seen many student-initiated improvements, such as the planned refurbishment of the library and its extended 24-hour opening times. The creation of the Learning Zone and its practice presentation spaces was also a direct result of the survey and according to Chetwynd, has proved “extremely popular with students.”
Another example of Lancaster’s success is the University’s student-orientated Lancaster Award. The scheme, according to Chewynd. “Encourages students to think about employability in their first year and reflect on the opportunities the University and Students Union offers to gain new skills (and importantly understand those skills that employers are looking for).”
The survey also asks students questions about how well their coarse material is taught and structured, leading to the drawing up an academic contact policy. This document sets out the minimum contact hours, maximum turn round time for work and how graduate teaching assistants are used. Results from the survey suggest that 89% of Lancaster students agree with the statement “I have had adequate opportunities to provide feedback on all elements of my course”, up from 83% last year and compared to 82% sector wide.
Chetwynd concluded that the positive results had come from earnest cooperation between University House and LUSU. “Working with LUSU we led the way in feeding back to students the results of the survey and the changes the university will be making” adding, “We jointly produce a ‘You said, we have’ leaflet every year. These are available in the Learning Zone.” Lancaster University is looking to improve of its latest survey results next year with further renovations to its library facilities as well as to the completion of its new Engineering building by the end of 2014.