5% drop in Durham student satisfaction, NSS shows

By Melissa Tutesigensi and Anna Tatham

This year’s National Student Survey (NSS) has revealed a 5% drop in student satisfaction at Durham University, as well as an overall dissatisfaction with Durham Students’ Union.

The University received a score of 85% for student satisfaction in the 2018 survey, which is 5% lower than in 2017 (90%) although above the UK average, which stands at 83%.

In the 2018 higher education table, Durham has fallen to 51st place for student satisfaction, whereas in 2017 it stood at 19th.

Saul Cahill, Durham’s Undergraduate Academic Officer, has highlighted the University’s student expansion and alienation of finalists as potential reasons for this decline.

He states that “a few examples of why students may have been dissatisfied with the University stand out, many of which are the result of the rapid expansion of student numbers.

“We need to ensure that the University’s expansion does not come at the expense of student needs, academically and more widely.”

The University is a year into its 2017-2027 strategy, which aims to increase the student population to 21,500 by 2027.

Only 33% of respondents agreed that Durham Students’ Union effectively represents students’ academic interests.

Durham University was below the UK average in categories such as Learning opportunities, Assessment and feedback, Academic support, Learning community, Student voice and Students’ union.

“We need to ensure that the University’s expansion does not come at the expense of student needs, academically and more widely.”

Elsewhere, Cahill has expressed how the dissatisfaction felt amongst finalists fails to do justice to the collegiate system that prides itself on fostering supportive and amiable communities.

“Durham finalists felt less like they were part of a learning community of staff and students, with the right opportunities to work with others, than students at any other university in the North-East.”

The NSS measures a range of different academic experiences such as teaching, organisation and support as a way to determine the overall student experience.

Taken by undergraduate finalists, its aim is to serve as an ultimate indication as to which parts of each university are working and which are not.

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is the standard used for the NSS, however, it has previously been condemned for marketisation and having too broad questions.

Neither Cambridge nor Oxford Universities are featured in the survey as they failed to submit the minimum responses of 50% of their undergraduates as part of a boycott of the TEF.

The 2018 survey received a 70% response rate, with 320,864 finalist students participating.

Durham University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Alan Houston, has called the results “helpful”.

“We are committed to providing an unrivalled educational experience, and we consider student voice to be an essential part of this process.

“Durham’s ten-year strategy calls for additional students and staff. Our goal is to strengthen Durham’s position as a world-leading university.

“Growth is planned and targeted and will, we believe, enhance the value of a Durham education.”

You can find the full NSS 2018 data here

Graphics: Office for Students 

Photograph: Maddie Flisher

@mel_issa97 @annatatha

One Response

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  1. nemo
    Aug 24, 2018 - 11:42 AM

    ‘Durham University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Alan Houston, has called the results “helpful”.’

    In the same way he might describe a well-aimed roundhouse kick in the bollocks, “stimulating”, I suppose.
    The effect may be transient (but that remains to be seen), but it should still give significant pause to the institution.

    Reply

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