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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.
After a week of largely disappointing news for UK higher education, Nicola Owen, Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) at Lancaster University, fears that gloomy forecasts for the future of the sector may prove to be uncomfortably accurate.
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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