Despite Cardiff University achieving its highest ever recorded level of overall student satisfaction at 89 per cent in a recent survey, individual subject schools have shown some worrying results.
The National Student Survey (NSS) gives university students across the UK the opportunity to have their say on how satisfied they are with their university in a number of areas. These areas included teaching, assessment and feedback, academic support, organisation and personal development.
Based on proposed statements, students ranked their opinion from ‘definitely agree’ through to ‘definitely disagree’.
One of the areas of the survey asked students to rate their overall satisfaction at their university. The results were analysed to show students that either ‘definitely agree’ and ‘mostly agree’.
Some of the results for Cardiff University students’ overall satisfaction were particularly interesting. The Welsh School, who last year stood at 93 per cent overall satisfaction, has seen a marked drop of 22 per cent of students satisfied with the University. CPLAN, City and Regional Planning, have also seen a large decrease of 20 per cent, seeing them now standing at 75 per cent of their students feeling satisfied at Cardiff, as opposed to last years 95 per cent. The EUROP School, which holds Politics and Language courses, also saw a 10 per cent decrease to 77 per cent content students.
Just as significantly, CARBS, Cardiff’s Business School saw an increase of 26 per cent, to 90 per cent overall satisfied students. The School of Medicine has also increased by 15 per cent to 85 per cent overall.
At Cardiff University, assessment and feedback has been highlighted as a particular problem area. Just over half of the whole university, 67 per cent, are satisfied with the feedback they receive from lecturers and through the assessment process. This seems an alarmingly low figure. The Welsh School’s satisfaction level with feedback on assessment has dropped by 21 per cent, to only 49 per cent altogether. SHARE, Cardiff’s school of History, Archaeology and Religion, showed only 55 per cent satisfaction with feedback, a 24 per cent decrease on last years figures.
Interestingly, the MEDIC School has increased their satisfaction level with feedback by 17 per cent. However, this still only brings the schools altogether satisfaction level on feedback to 47 per cent. The Students’ Union Heath Park Officer, Hannah Pask, has commented on the low figures for Medicine courses: “There have already been considerable changes made to feedback for OSCE exams and we hope this can continue across all assessments in the future. There is still considerable work to be done; therefore I plan to work closely with the university to ensure continued improvement.” She also said: “Student satisfaction needs to be at the forefront of the university’s mind to ensure that their students are getting the most out of their time at Cardiff.”
Beth Button, Cardiff Students’ Union Education & University Affairs Officer, has said that she aims to “tackle the view on feedback”, believing that individual schools need to “improve their communication with students”. The University has a 4-week turnaround time period for all assessments, which often involves double and external marking. Button has said that it is essential to explain to students how this process works, and the logistics behind it, to ensure students do not become disengaged during this time.
Throughout the NSS survey, the Welsh School’s results in general showed a lot of dissatisfaction with different elements of the University. In response to this clear lack of engagement between the WELSH school and the University, a Cardiff University spokesperson said: “The number of students taking Welsh to degree level is small, and even one individual equates to several percentage points. Given that, it is probably inevitable that results will vary from year to year. However, we take these results very seriously and have already instigated several modifications to our provision.”
The spokesperson also stated that the adoption of the Student Charter by the University and the Union, with a strong commitment to the Welsh language, “will hopefully see an improved engagement between Welsh speaking students and the Students’ Union.”
Although this reasoning does account for the low figures for the Welsh school, it does not account for other schools that have shown dissatisfaction in particular areas of the survey. For instance, the MEDIC school, which has shown some dissatisfaction in certain areas, is a much larger populated school, compared to the Welsh school, which has a considerably smaller number of enrolled students.
However, Beth Button, has said that “comparatively to other Welsh Universities such as Bangor, it is speculated that perhaps Cardiff University does not provide enough bilingual services, which would explain the Welsh school’s clear disengagement with the University”.
In spite of this, the percentage of Welsh speaking students at Cardiff University is markedly lower than other Welsh Universities, and therefore it has not been considered a priority.
Button has said: “Whilst the low scores in the school of Welsh are worrying, I hope that an active and on-going conversation with the school, students, and the Welsh students’ officer will mean that we can get to the bottom of students’ dissatisfaction and work together to overcome any issues they may be facing.”
The NSS results have highlighted some areas of concern for the University to consider. In spite of these problem areas, and the low results for certain schools in terms of feedback and assessment issues, the University has actually improved in all areas of the survey since last year.