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Behind the HE headlines is one key question – the purpose of universities

The past week’s higher education news demonstrates that there are certain expectations of universities that policymakers, HE leaders and the Augar review are expected to address, says Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of the Engineering Professors’ Council and Chief Executive of outreach organisation Push .

30 VCs sign new Civic University Agreement

Leaders of thirty universities have signed a Civic University Agreement, reaffirming their institution's commitment to their local communities by pledging to put the economy and quality of life in their home towns and cities at the top of their list of priorities.

How to improve the student experience -- ask the students themselves

Jenny Shaw , Student Experience Director at Unite Students, draws lessons on the higher education sector's efforts to improve the student experience from a week of HE news and views.

HEi-think: Why universities should support two year degrees

From this September, students will be able to opt to study an accelerated two year degree, as opposed to a traditional three year course. Professor Malcolm Todd, Provost (Academic) at the University of Derby, discusses why universities should consider the change in legislation and look to offer accelerated degrees.

Research England names KEF pilot institutions

Research England has selected 21 English universities to take part in a pilot Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), which will run between February and May 2019.

Student well-being plays key role in satisfaction, study finds

A study of student well-being has found that social and emotional factors play a strong role in the overall student experience and satisfaction levels.

Students who are satisfied with life are more likely to be satisfied with a broad range of university services and less likely to think about leaving university early, a survey carried out by YouGov and Youthsight for Unite Students found.

The survey, which looked at non-academic elements of student life and involved 6,504 students and 2,169 applicants, found that three quarters of students (73 per cent) were satisfied with their life at the moment, while around one in ten (13 per cent) were not satisfied. Researchers found correlations between satisfaction and a number of university services and facilities, with retention and with mental health.

About one in eight (12 per cent) said they had a named mental health condition, while more than half had experienced stress, worry or strain over the four weeks leading up to the survey. In total, 16 per cent of students scored low on well-being.

Emotional resilience (defined broadly as a positive mental attitude) was linked both to retention and life satisfaction among students, authors of a report on the findings say.

The areas of student life examined included accommodation, wellbeing and life quality, financial management and employability.

Researchers identified social integration as an important factor for students. Unite Students, which is a provider of university accommodation, says satisfaction with accommodation and a sense of integration with others in a university home were linked to overall happiness and to retention.

It says a major finding was the “interconnectedness of student life” – that “students having a positive experience in one area are much more likely to be having a positive experience in others”. The report says flat-mates play a significant role, and students who are satisfied with the communal areas in their accommodation are more likely to feel integrated. Seventy per cent of students who felt satisfied with their lives were integrated with their flatmates, whereas only 40 per cent who were very dissatisfied with their lives felt integrated.

The study showed students from less wealthy homes were more likely to consider dropping out of their course (43 per cent compared with 34 per cent) and less likely to be happy with where they were living and to feel integrated there.

Unite Students Chief Executive, Richard Smith, said: “The report highlights some significant differences in experience and outcome, particularly for students from lower socioeconomic groups and for those with mental health issues.

“This research has brought home to me just how influential student accommodation, and what takes place within it, can be on student wellbeing and success.”

andresr / 123RF
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