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Two of Britain’s leading universities fall well below benchmark for student satisfaction, survey finds

wo of Britain’s leading universities have fallen well below their benchmark for student satisfaction, according to the National Student Survey (NSS).

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and Edinburgh University both scored significantly less than the sector average for satisfaction.

Some 84 per cent of final-year students said they were content with the overall quality of their courses, less than the 86 per cent of the previous three years.

LSE had a 74 per cent satisfaction rate, the lowest of all the Russell Group universities and 11 per cent below its benchmark. Meanwhile, the University of Edinburgh scored 83 per cent, which was three per cent less than its benchmark.

Edinburgh University
Edinburgh University

The results, published today, reveal that a student-led campaign to boycott the survey was successful, as 12 institutions including Oxford and Cambridge failed to meet the 50 per cent response rate required for their score to be published.

The survey – which asks final year students about their university experience – has been published annually since 2005 by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce).

But last year the National Union of Students called on undergraduates to shun the survey, as ministers had planned to use its data to inform their decision on whether to allow universities to raise tuition fees.

The Government has launched a new official ranking system, known as the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), where the student satisfaction survey scores are to be used alongside other measures to grade universities.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson
Universities Minister Jo Johnson

Education leaders have warned that the TEF places too much importance on the satisfaction survey, as they fear that universities will be forced to pander to the demands of “snowflake” students to keep their ratings high.

Under the new system, which is unpopular among both academics and students, universities are rated gold, silver or bronze based on measures including student experience, employment after university and dropout rate.

LSE, which is the 25th best university in the world according to the Times Higher Education university rankings, received a bronze award, while Edinburgh University declined to participate.

Professor Julia Black, interim director of LSE, said that the university has made a number of “significant changes” in the past year, and has invested £11 million in delivering its “education strategy”.

“Rigorous academic standards and independent critical analysis will continue to be an essential part of undergraduate education at LSE,” she said.

“However, it is clear that work is needed in order to improve our students’ overall experience. Student feedback is vital for the School to better understand where to focus our improvements.”

The TEF is unpopular among both academics and students
The TEF is unpopular among both academics and students CREDIT: CHRIS ISON

A Russell Group spokesman said that the “overall picture is complicated by the impact of the boycott”. The spokesman added: “Collectively, Russell Group universities included in the NSS figures this year have continued to outperform the sector as a whole.

“Our universities continue to invest millions of pounds in improving the teaching, facilities and services available to our students.”

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: “While overall student satisfaction remains high, we know there is significant variation in teaching quality and outcomes both within and between providers.

“There is more to do to ensure that students and taxpayers investing heavily in our higher education system secure value for money from it.”

Professor Madeleine Atkins, chief executive of Hefce, said: “The NSS continues to be the largest and most authoritative survey of its kind in the UK.

“Institutions will be considering carefully how they can continue to improve assessment and feedback, and their broader engagement with students.”




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