The Student Experience: Measuring Happiness

Published: 10 October 2014

With enough time having elapsed since fees were raised to £9,000, it seems fair to ask the question as to whether students are happy with what their money is getting them. During the many meetings I attend across a multitude of university departments, one of the key underlying themes seems to be the impact of actions on the student experience. It is good to see such a focus on this topic in the upper echelons of university management.

This brings us onto perhaps the best barometer for student experience; the National Student Survey (or NSS for the acronym lovers amongst us). The annual NSS exercise, now in its ninth year, captures feedback from students on a range of factors connected to the quality of their courses. Results published over the years have made for some interesting reading. Campus universities in particular seem to consistently score highly whilst the more established redbrick universities also do well. There are a few things to note with surveys of this nature, namely the sample group size and group sampled. In this case, respondent numbers are growing every year although predominantly final year students are surveyed, which begs the question of how students in their earlier years are finding their experience.

With satisfaction scores in the early nineties for the likes of Bath (top in 2013), Buckinghamshire, Essex, Keele, Cambridge and Oxford, it would seem that students are seeing the value from their investment. As universities continue to invest huge sums in improving estates and focusing on being more “customer” centric, rises in satisfaction are no doubt forecast.

With value for money in mind, an interesting set of metrics to see would be a five year post-graduation survey on return on investment. I would hasten a guess that overall satisfaction would be high in this regard too. Overall though, it seems that the pre-rise fears around negative impact on student life are yet to be seen.

Gin Bhandal is a Consultant in the Education practice at Berwick Partners. He regularly works with Universities to appoint senior leaders whom have a direct responsibility for cultivating the student experience. 

Categories: Education Recruitment

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