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UK universities face challenges and opportunities on student intakes

Reviewing a week of HE news, Ross Renton, Pro Vice-Chancellor Students at the University of Worcester, identifies challenges and opportunities for UK universities over enrolment of both international and home students.

Buckingham University names new Chancellor

The University of Buckingham has appointed Dame Mary Archer as its new Chancellor. Dame Mary will be joining the University from 24 February, succeeding Lady Tessa Keswick, who has been in the role since 2014.

Higher education is not broken - it just needs to fix its diversity problem

Reviewing the past week's higher education news, Rachel Hewitt, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute, takes issue with claims that UK higher education is "broken" and sees encouraging signs that it is addressing issues over diversity.

New year presents HE sector with fresh challenges

Professor Malcolm Todd, Deputy Vice-Chancellor/Provost (academic and student experience) at the University of Derby, comments on what he sees as the most significant higher education news and opinions making headlines in the first week of 2020.

Survey pinpoints ways to make postgraduates even more satisfied

Eight out of 10 postgraduate students taking a taught course in the UK report continued satisfaction with the experience over a five-year period.

But a survey of more than 70,000 postgraduates across 85 higher education institutions who responded to the Advance HE Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) highlights for the first time areas where institutions could do better still to boost satisfaction levels.

This year's PTES shows that an 82 per cent overall satisfaction among taught postgraduates has remained consistent since 2015, with just a 2 per cent dip in 2018. Last year’s PTES pointed to strike action at the time of completing the survey as a potential factor in this small decrease.

Institutions score highly for providing effective resources and information in 2019, remaining the same at 85 per cent over the past three to four years. Although areas needing significant improvement are few, Advance HE has provided new analysis in 2019 on suggestions for improvements so that providers can continue to meet the needs of postgraduate taught students.

Half of the 20,000 respondents suggested improvements on programme design and organisation, such as timetabling. More than a third (37 per cent) of respondents felt programme delivery, including the quality of lecturers and contact time, could be improved and 34 per cent said they would like to see better learning and project support.

The survey also shows that institutions face a challenge to increase the relatively low overall satisfaction reported by PGT students from Asian, Mixed and Other backgrounds. The results could provide the impetus for institutions to conduct further investigative work to understand how these groups feel their experience can be improved.

While a fifth of responding students said they had considered leaving their course, Advance HE says this compares favourably with similar data collected at undergraduate and postgraduate research level "and endorses the levels of support provided across the sector".

Alison Johns, Advance HE Chief Executive, said: “It is heartening to see evidence that the postgraduate taught experience is so positive, with strong support from students and institutions. This is a true endorsement of the sector’s commitment towards postgraduate taught provision.

“However, although the sector is doing a good job of meeting the needs of PGT students, I hope this year’s results, as well as institutions’ own data, can help to drive further enhancements in future PGT experience.”

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