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Amid predictions that higher education will be changed forever by the current pandemic, Professor James Miller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University, suggests the innovative ways the sector is responding to the crisis will make it even more valued in the future.
The current crisis has underlined the critical role played by the UK’s experts and researchers and the institutions supporting them, as well as the need for collaboration between them, says Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business.
As a growing number of universities move teaching and assessment online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Derby is holding a virtual conference which aims to support staff in making the transition.
The Office for Students is leaving it up to universities to decide on particular approaches to the Coronavirus pandemic rather than issuing specific guidance, and has promised to minimises its regulatory demands on the sector in response to the crisis.
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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