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The vast majority of students were satisfied with their university course in 2020, despite the Covid-19 lockdown from March, a sector-level analysis of the National Student Survey results has found.
Jonathan Baldwin, managing director of higher education at Jisc, looks at the changing role of post-Covid university leadership and the enduring need for collaboration.
The government's announcement of a major review of the National Student Survey signals a worrying shift in the HE regulatory landscape, warns Jon Scott, higher education consultant and former Pro Vice-Chancellor (student experience) at the University of Leicester.
Statements from ministers this week have made it clear that higher education in England is facing significant reforms, re-setting its focus towards helping to plug the UK's skills gaps and rebuilding the economy. Fariba Soetan, Policy Lead for Research and Innovation at the National Centre for Universities and Business, argues that the proposed changes bring a welcome focus on graduate outcomes and supporting the careers of young people.
Universities UK and GuildHE have commissioned the Quality Assurance Agency to develop a new approach to reviewing and enhancing the quality of UK TNE. QAA will consult on a new review method later this year and will launch a programme of in-country enhancement activity in 2021.
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.”
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