Education & Family

Most UK students 'satisfied with university course'

graduation day
Image caption The National Student Survey has been gauging student satisfaction for seven years

The majority of UK students are happy with the quality of their university course, an annual survey suggests.

The National Student Survey (NSS) of 265,000 final-year students found 83% were satisfied, up from 82% in 2010.

But 9% of undergraduates were unsatisfied, the same percentage as last year, while a further 8% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.

The survey comes as students in England starting degree courses in 2012 face tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year.

The findings, which are published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), were based on answers from students studying at 154 universities and 99 further education colleges across the UK.

There was a response rate of 65% - the highest rate in the seven years that the NSS has been running.

Feedback complaints

The poll revealed that about a third of students (32%) were unhappy with the level of assessment and feedback they received, while a quarter (25%) criticised the organisation and management of their course.

Among universities only, students at Brighton and Sussex Medical School were the happiest, with an overall satisfaction rate of 95%.

Cambridge University was second with 94% of students happy overall.

The private Buckingham University, the Open University (which is listed as England), Oxford, St Andrews and St Mary's University College Belfast, all had satisfaction rates of 93%.

At the other end of the scale, 67% of Ravensbourne's students and 69% of students at the University of the Arts, London were satisfied.

In Scotland, St Andrew's University got the highest satisfaction rating of 93%, the same as last year.

In Wales, Aberystwyth University got the top satisfaction rating of 89%, down from 92% in 2010.

And in Northern Ireland, St Mary's University College was given the top satisfaction score of 93%, down slightly from last year's score of 94%.

The survey results are published a day before students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their A-level results.

'Vital information'

HEFCE chief executive Sir Alan Langlands said the results were excellent, but stressed there was "no room for complacency".

"The survey provides vital information to inform students' choices - and with changes in financing of higher education, we can be sure the NSS will only grow in importance.

"The results also provide crucial information for universities and colleges to help them improve the learning and teaching experiences of their students."

Universities Minister David Willetts said the survey results were "welcome news".

"No wonder record numbers of young people at home and abroad wish to study at our world-class universities," he said.

Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said: "It is crucial that institutions work in partnership with students to make improvements where they have been shown to be necessary.

"The results show only very slight increases in overall student satisfaction, and at a time of severe funding pressures it is more important than ever that students are involved in shaping their curriculum to ensure progress is made in the future."

'Demanding more'

Universities UK's chief executive Nicola Dandridge said: "Increasingly, and quite rightly, students are demanding more and more from their university courses.

"Inevitably this will become even more of an issue when fees increase in 2012."

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, which represents research-intense universities - many of which scored highly in the NSS - said: "Russell Group universities work hard to ensure that they continue to have high levels of student satisfaction and the lowest drop-out rates.

"The cuts to teaching funding over the past year means that maintaining excellence will be increasingly challenging for universities.

"We have already made significant strategic savings, but the new fee income for English universities from autumn 2012 will be all the more crucial as we work to provide our students with the first-rate teaching experience they deserve."

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of million+, which represents many of the former polytechnic universities, said: "There are very few organisations in the public and private sectors which score satisfaction rates of over 80%.

"While universities cannot be complacent, it is clear that studying for the degree you need to get the job you want is one of the best decisions that people can make."

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