August is a strange time of the year on campus, with many colleagues away from the University either doing research or enjoying a well-earned break.
However, for a number of colleagues, August on campus is a very busy month – including admissions, pre-sessional classes, Moodle updates, teaching room refurbishments, timetabling, and of course, for some of us, analysis of the National Student Survey (NSS) results.
Whilst NSS scores are certainly not the ultimate aim of our learning and teaching, the survey is important in terms of our external profile and reputation, and providing us with valuable and helpful feedback from our students.
The introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the metrics of which will include certain elements of the NSS, is an added incentive to continue to focus on enhancing our learning and teaching provision.
A real team effort
I was delighted to see that we had once again achieved a very good result. 90% of our final year students were satisfied with their overall experience (the UK average for HEIs was 86%), placing us 14th in the overall satisfaction rankings, alongside Oxford and Cambridge among others.
Moreover, eleven of our programmes received a remarkable 100% overall satisfaction, and a number of our departments also received very high overall satisfaction scores, most notably Chemistry, which achieved a score of 99%.
The results are testament to the hard work of all colleagues involved in supporting our students – academics and professional services alike – and especially Directors of Studies. It is a culture of commitment of individual staff members that makes Bath so successful in learning and teaching.
No room for complacency
While I am pleased with the results, I am very aware that there is no room for complacency, there is a lot to be done and we must continue to listen to, and work with, our staff and students to make things even better.
This is especially the case in two areas: our scores on Feedback and Assessment were not good, despite the efforts by staff in recent years to improve the timing, quality and clarity of our feedback.
There are no quick-fix answers, but I will be expecting departments and Faculties to work with the proposed new Centre for Learning and Teaching, which will include staff with a specific remit of supporting colleagues with curriculum and assessment design, including feedback.
The results regarding Learning Resources were particularly disappointing, especially given how hard staff in the Library have worked to support students. This was highlighted in last year’s Students’ Union Top 10 and we have been working hard to improve and develop learning spaces, including developing a student learning zone at Manvers Street, transforming part of 6 West South into a student learning and social space and creating dedicated learning space in the recently opened 10 West and 4 East South.
More needs to be done, but we are working closely with the Students’ Union (SU), and further initiatives are in the pipeline.
Working in partnership with students
Talking of working closely with the Students’ Union, I was particularly pleased to find that the SU had improved their overall satisfaction score from last year, achieving 83%, which maintains their position among the leading Students’ Unions in the country.
I am very proud of the close and productive working relationship we have with our Students’ Union, which I think has been key to our success in learning and teaching, and hugely beneficial in terms of developing student engagement in all areas of the University.
While we promote student engagement for many reasons to do with academic, social and personal development, it should be good news for us, that from 2017 the NSS will include new questions specifically focussed on student engagement.
You can read more about the changes to the NSS online.
Much to be proud of
The slim margins between rankings in the NSS tables reflect such a fine line between the top universities that focussing simply on overall position is of limited value.
What our results do show, however, is an extraordinary consistency over the past six years in delivering high quality learning and teaching. The University can provide the support to staff and students, but the results are a testament to the commitment and efforts of all of those colleagues involved in learning and teaching.
Thank you for all your efforts.