The NUS launched the first "Student Experience Report" in conjunction with HSBC at the House of Commons at the end of November. The report which is being hailed as 'ground breaking' questioned over 3,000 students from across the sector on issues such as contact hours, quality of teaching, accommodation, finance and welfare services. The report has revealed 'shocking' statistics that we would have regarded more as 'stating the obvious' than 'ground breaking'.
Elite Universities Lead the Pack
The report compares student experiences according to the type of University they have attended in many categories with the Russell Group being up against 'Pre 1992', 'Post 1992' and 'Other' Universities. Unsurprisingly, 81% of students at Russell Group universities said that the main reason for choosing their university was the ?academic reputation of the university?, compared with 58% at Pre 1992 universities and 24% at Post 1992 universities. More importantly the Russell Group also received the best satisfaction ratings in the following areas:
- The quality of teaching and the learning experience,
- Hours of contact and quality of contact with professors, researchers and postgraduates.
- Timeliness of feedback meeting students' expectations.
- Quality and availability of University Accommodation.
The Russell Group fell slightly behind in the number of contact hours spent with Senior Lecturers but this was more than covered by the contact time spent with the other academics, particularly Professors.
Engineering harder than Media Studies?
The research has also shown that students studying the more traditional or "difficult" subjects study a lot harder than those studying for modern or "mickey mouse" degrees, with the most demanding courses being Medicine and Engineering. Media Studies and Journalism have often been the butt of political sniping from 'elitist' Universities and Unions alike and now the NUS has provided statistics to validate these claims. An average media studies course will require a combined total of 24 hours private and taught study per week, a far cry from that expected of students at Imperial. The NUS also says that the average time students spend in lectures per week is only eight hours which is one hour less than this reporter has had timetabled in one day!
While the report clearly paints Russell Group Institutions as ahead of the game, parts of the methodology make Live! wonder whether this document is worth the large amounts of funding ploughed into it by HSBC.
Commenting on the methodology the document boasts: "In the first phase, six focus groups were conducted in June 2008 in four universities, Winchester, Reading, Leeds and Coventry, selected to represent the differing types of institution within the British system." Four institutions, none of them in London, none of them in the top 30 in the Times league tables and none of them using a Collegiate system or specialising in any particular field are supposedly able to 'represent the differing types of institution'. It is difficult to see how the likes of Oxbridge and Imperial would compare to these supposedly representative institutions.
The phrase 'significantly' is here used to describe differences of less than 5% regarding the difference in teaching quality according to year of study. Elsewhere, results for social spaces provided by universities and students' unions are described as 'very similar' despite differences of 11-19% (provision of Chaplaincy space, TV rooms, Restaurants). This apparently inconsistant analysis only goes to prove that statistics can be manipulated, although usually more elegantly, to support any statement whether it is true or false.
NUS President Wes Streeting said: ?This report gives us an unprecedented insight into the experiences and concerns of students. We look forward to working with tutors, institutions and the government to address the issues raised by students through this survey.? Live! says: must try harder.