What makes an exceptional student experience? After recently being named as Whatuni? University of the Year, Loughborough University share with us their approach to supporting their students to build an experience that they’ll never forget.
As another academic year begins, all within the higher education sector are aware that competition for students is fiercer than ever. And there’s good reason for this; the sector is strong with many institutions investing money in facilities, taking innovative approaches to teaching, and providing students with strong links to industry.
All of the above form important parts of the strategy at Loughborough University. Any developments to areas such as facilities and courses though stem from the main goal; delivering a truly exceptional student experience. And the effort put in has definitely paid off as Loughborough is the only university to have been voted England’s Best Student Experience for six consecutive years in the Times Higher Education league table, most recently rising to second place overall in the Student Experience Survey 2015.
Students at the heart
The ‘student experience’ is incredibly diverse. The complexity of considering how each student’s experience will develop over their time at university means that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ experience will not deliver results. The Loughborough University’s approach to creating an exceptional student experience is quite simple; it puts students at the heart of everything.
The biggest reward for any university is the knowledge that their students are happy with the student experience. Loughborough recently received the biggest kudos for this, after being crowned University of the Year at the 2015 Whatuni? Student Choice Awards. The awards are voted for exclusively by UK students, and saw Loughborough also named as the winner of the best students’ union and accommodation categories.
Students of the university had also confirmed their satisfaction with the experience they were receiving during the National Student Survey for 2014, when the University achieved an incredibly high satisfaction rate of 89%. This statistic was above the national average, and put the University in the top 15% of institutions in the UK.
Sporting opportunities for everyone
The campus provides world-class sports facilities; a reason that a number of competitive professional athletes choose to use the campus as their training base, with a high number completing their studies on campus too.
Away from elite sport performance, the University is also dedicated to offering sport and fitness opportunities to all students on campus, with an ambitious goal of getting 75% of students physically active at least three times a week. In support of this pledge, a huge investment has been made in sporting facilities, including a recent £5.6m fitness complex. Whichever way you turn on the 438-acre campus, there is some form of sporting facility that students can access.
Research that matters
With staff right across the University involved in pioneering research, Loughborough students benefit from a vibrant research culture in which they are taught by academics at the forefront of their disciplines. Students are also involved in current research activities which enable them to gain the skills and knowledge arising from top-quality research practice.
This inclusive approach ensured that Loughborough consolidated its position in the premier league of research universities, ranking 14th in the UK and 9th among universities in England for research intensity in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessment.
Entrepreneurial behaviour makes graduates stand out from the crowd, which is why throughout a student’s time at Loughborough, no matter what they are studying, opportunities are provided to engage in enterprise education and activity. This includes formal modules and extra-curricular activity and dedicated support to help students exploit the commercial potential of their work. Students also have access to the Studio, a unique two-year support package for graduates taking their first steps in business.
Boosting the chances of employment
There are many contributing factors to a student’s employability, but experience and transferrable skills are essential. Loughborough offers a variety of opportunities for students to build their employability, a key part of which is year-long paid work placements. The University is one of the biggest providers of placements in the UK, with every undergraduate course offering the opportunity to gain some experience in industry. With excellent links with companies who are keen to recruit our students for placements, support is always available to students in helping them find a suitable role.
A key player in delivering the ‘Loughborough Experience’ is Loughborough Students’ Union (LSU). The LSU has over 100 societies on offer, from belly dancing to fine cheese and wine, and hiking to Disney.
The LSU Rag is one of the biggest and best student fundraising organisations in the country. Their fundraising is an achievement of which many national charities would be proud. More than £12m has been raised for local and national charities since records began in 1980.
Many students also give their time to support community causes through ‘Action’ projects, developing an admirable set of transferable skills. Last year the University had a total of total of 2,000 active volunteers and just over 28,000 hours of voluntary work in the community were completed.
Creating opportunities away from Loughborough
Loughborough University London is the University’s most ambitious initiative of recent times; a postgraduate academic campus on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, home of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Students will learn from the most influential thought leaders, and partnerships with leading public and private sector companies and cutting-edge local organisations will allow students to tackle real-life industry challenges.
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