Fri 23 Mar 2018
- The award-winning student news website of Imperial College

Know something you shouldn't? Tell us, using our quick, 100% anonymous tip-off form!

Live! - News

"Elite Unis are Well Good, Innit!"

Dec 15 2008 23:32
Kirsty Patterson
Research conducted by the NUS proves what we've been saying all along: some degrees and institutions are simply better.
Quality of Teaching is better in the Russell Group... well duh?

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!

Shoddy Stats

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.

Questionable significance?

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.

Email this Article | Share on Facebook | Print this Article

Discussion about “"Elite Unis are Well Good, Innit!"”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Dec 15 2008 23:42

"There's lies, damn lies, and statistics."

There's also pointless surveys which don't really tell us much. Hehe.

Dec 16 2008 12:02

Eight hours of lectures per week?! Where does that happen? Is this bizarre place really a university? Sounds more like a party house with occasional 'work breaks'. Do such places really exist?

Dec 16 2008 14:04

@Physics Fresher,

They certainly do, and they include UCL*, which the Times ranks as only one place behind our own alma mater.

The trouble is that hours of lectures is actually a pretty useless in describing how hard students work. Hours of private study are a far more useful measure. Science subjects tend to be heavy on lectures and class time because of their very nature. Private study accounts for a relatively small amount of our workload (which is probably just as well as 9-5, Mon-Fri timetables are not rare in Engineering). You'd feel differently about the appropriate number of lectures if you had to read two Jane Austin books a week**.

RE: The varying significance.

The NUS are still manipulating their reports to try and imply that Russel Group students excel because of 'privilege' as opposed to through sheer work.

*Based on a friend's experience

**Also, probably suicidal.

Dec 16 2008 14:45

Can I just de-garbage my post a bit?

"Hours of private study are a far more useful measure."

  • >Including hours of private study results in a far more useful measure.
5. Si   
Dec 16 2008 21:00

Far more simple and probably more meaningful survey:

Question 1:

Can you get a job in this field with this degree.

Question 2:

Do you need decent grades at A-Level to get on this course.

Question 3:

Do you deserve to call yourselves a University?

Hey presto only 20 or so unis left in the country and ample funding for any student who makes the grade to get in.

Oh and before the NUS start moaning about elitism and priviledge, not everyone who gets good grades do so because of "priviledge" some are just smarter than you.

Dec 17 2008 16:49

...even if they can't spell

7. Hack   
Dec 17 2008 21:47

I guess those 20 or so unis would pretty much just be the Russell group?

8. Anon   
Dec 24 2008 01:55

Does anyone else notice the irony that the President of the NUS is a Cambridge graduate? If he wants to have a go about privilege, he could start by whipping himself.

9. @8.   
Dec 24 2008 06:16

So what if Wes went to Cambridge? Does not necessarily mean he was privileged...

Dec 24 2008 16:18

Only self hating students of elite universities are welcome in NUS. Your opinion is only valid if you argue for the same line the Polys push on HE funding which would divert money to c**p Uni's in order to further some arbitrary "fairness agenda".

Whilst the political test is in place that expects us to not speak out against policies that would be detrimental to our

experience there is nothing to be gained by ICU subsidizing class war.

Dec 26 2008 16:43

wtf is wrong with the site?? fix it, please.

Add your comment:

If you can see this, something is broken (either with your browser, or with our system). Please leave the box below empty, or your comment will be considered to be spam.

Live! Poll

How frequently would you like to see a CGCU magazine being published