Aberystwyth Uni tops student satisfaction survey in Wales

Aberystwyth University
Image caption Applications to Aberystwyth dropped by a third from 2011 to 2014

Aberystwyth is one of the top-ranking universities for student satisfaction in the UK, according to a survey.

The annual National Student Survey (NSS) of nearly a third of a million students found 86% in Wales are satisfied with the quality of their courses.

Aberystwyth, which scored only 83% last year, has risen to 92% and is now above Oxford in the top 10.

Bangor and Swansea universities both scored 90%.

Among further education colleges in Wales, 92% of students at Merthyr and 91% of students at Grwp Llandrillo Menai said they are satisfied.

But satisfaction levels at the University of South Wales are still lower than its benchmark figure, with 81% of students surveyed saying they are satisfied.

Image copyright HEFCW
Image caption Student satisfaction in Wales has hit its highest-ever level in 12 years of the survey

Aberystwyth has faced claims of low staff morale, with falling applications and a drop in the Complete University Guide "league table".

The latest NSS finds it ranked highest for student satisfaction in Wales and only universities such as St Andrews, Keele (94%) and St Mary's University College in Belfast (95%) are above it.

Aberystwyth is also above its suggested benchmark figure, which was 86%.

Recent business management graduate Josh Stacey, from Rhondda Cynon Taff, praised the "really good student experience" at Aberystwyth.

"It's a unique place with a real sense of community - it's friendly, it's safe, it's a great student town and an excellent place to go to university," he said.

Professor John Grattan, acting vice chancellor at Aberystwyth University, said the sector had been through a "big upheaval" since the introduction of higher fees in 2011.

"In this brave new world, we have redoubled our efforts to ensure that every aspect of student learning and living in Aberystwyth is exceptional," he said.

Image caption How the universities in Wales compare for overall satisfaction among registered students

Students were also asked questions about their courses, teaching and resources available.

The survey found 91% of students in Wales said staff are good at explaining things and 87% said they were enthusiastic about what they were teaching.

The overall satisfaction-rating average in Wales is slightly higher than the 85% average in England, which was also the Welsh figure in 2015.

Analysis by Bethan Lewis, BBC Wales education correspondent

For more than a decade the National Student Survey has asked students about a range of issues including the quality of teaching, IT facilities and whether the timetable works well.

But what is the significance of being up or down in the student satisfaction rankings?

On one level, universities are multi-million pound businesses and being able to show customer satisfaction could help to attract more students in future - a good ranking is sure to feature on next year's promotional material.

They can currently charge fees of up to £9,000 a year and need to show they are providing value for money.

And the data may be useful to tailor their services and highlight the areas which need some work.

But universities also receive millions in public money and so the survey is also an exercise in accountability.

There has been a lively debate about higher education funding in Wales, tied up with the grant the Welsh Government gives Welsh students towards their fees.

Universities claim it is unsustainable and diverts cash away from Welsh institutions. A long-awaited report on the future of higher education funding in Wales is due to report next month.

These survey results will not be the key factor in deciding that debate but, in arguing for more funding, universities have to show they are delivering a good service for students and the wider taxpaying public.

Dr David Blaney, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, said: "After remaining steady at a high level, we are pleased to see that overall satisfaction has edged even higher in Wales.

"We know there is some excellent work going on at universities to make university teaching even better and to improve the experience students have of higher education."

Universities Wales said the results reflected a "positive interaction" between staff and students.

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