Universities increasingly keen to invite and act upon student feedback

A report by Explorance finds that that UK universities are having to take a more robust approach to course and module evaluation

Student feedback company, Explorance, has published a report exploring the views of university staff tasked with “devising strategies around the student voice”. Among those featured are senior leaders at Bath Spa University, Coventry University, University of Dundee, Lancaster University, University of Lincoln, University of Nottingham, University of Salford and University of Sheffield.

The report – The Student Voice: How can UK universities ensure that module evaluation feedback leads to continuous improvement across their institution? – also highlights current practice, including case studies from University of Aberdeen, Durham University, Liverpool John Moores University, University of Louisville (USA) and University of New South Wales (Australia).

The report finds that:

  • Driven by external pressures around the National Student Survey (NSS), Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) and other metrics, universities are ramping up their approaches to capturing and responding to student feedback
  • Module evaluation surveys are recognised as playing a strategically important role in the student voice, providing institutions with the opportunity to respond to any issues/concerns before the NSS is completed
  • Many universities are embedding module evaluation within their wider strategies around student engagement and student experience. These surveys are also perceived to support broader institutional initiatives around student retention
  • Examples of good practice have been identified around student engagement in module evaluation activity, both in planning and in follow up
  • There are, however, clear issues with the consistency of approach to feedback and evaluation within institutions and across the sector more widely
  • When undertaken well, surveys can be used to ensure that decision-making is guided by evidence, and they can support staff in being recognised and rewarded for their good practice
  • Senior leaders recognise that module evaluation surveys are just one form of gathering student feedback, and these need to be supported by more holistic approaches
  • The real challenge facing most universities is developing a wider system which allows them to gather students’ learning experiences and use them for both quality assurance and quality enhancement purposes
  • Some institutions are making advances in this area; others are at the start of their journey and restricted by the absence of consistent, institutional approaches to module evaluation
  • Many institutions expressed an underlying commitment to creating a culture of continuous improvement – with an enhanced focused on data analytics – with the objective of teaching and learning improvement and student and staff development

John Atherton, higher education director (UK & Ireland) at Explorance, said: “Policy changes mean that UK universities are having to take a more robust and strategic approach to course and module evaluation. The NSS poses questions on how students have the opportunity to give feedback and how their feedback is acted on – and the TEF, which provides a resource for students to judge teaching quality in universities, draws on data from the NSS. All this points to student engagement rising higher up universities’ priority list than ever before. Student satisfaction, informed and ultimately supported by an engaged student population, is fundamental to the future of HEIs and the strategic goals of vice-chancellors and deputy or pro vice-chancellors directly responsible for this agenda.”