The Student Experience: Studies & Surveys

Student experience

This part of the ‘Student Experience’ area contains studies of student attitudes and experiences commissioned by the English Subject Centre and other bodies. Some of the studies are primarily narrative in nature and others primarily statistical. For information from HESA about student numbers in English and Creative Writing, please go to the ‘Student Statistics‘ section.

National Student Survey (NSS): the basics

The NSS has been conducted on an annual basis since 2005 across UK HE institutions. It asks final year undergraduates to provide feedback on their courses through completion of a questionnaire consisting of a core of 22 questions. The results are published on the Unistats website as part of an initiative to make more information available and accessible to applicants and their advisers. The Unistats website is intended to help potential students compare institutions and subjects, and make a more informed choice of where to study. You can select a subject and then select the institutions you are interested in and compare them. It is therefore possible to see how your programmes compare with others in terms of student satisfaction. If you would like to know more about how the data is collected, please see the report below or read the brief introduction to the National Student Survey on the LL&AS Subject Centre’s website.

History, English, Imaginative Writing and the NSS

nss2010The English Subject Centre has commissioned an analysis of the 2010 NSS results for History, English and Creative Writing and the results are available in our Report Series. English Studies, Imaginative Writing and the National Student Survey 2010 presents an analysis of the 2010 National Student Survey (NSS) for English and Creative Writing. The report makes it possible to see how students in these disciplines answered each of the 22 questions in the Survey, and the results are also presented in a comparative basis with History, other humanities disciplines and the NSS results as a whole. It is possible to look at the results by gender and region.
This report will be useful to heads of department and others seeking to formulate strategic responses to NSS results. It offers advice on interpreting the NSS findings and highlights points to consider when evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the NSS dataset as a tool for quality enhancement.

What’s Important to Students?

In a separate piece of work, the Subject Centre asked statisticians at the HEA to explore which scales are the best predictors for the score of question 22, the question that asks about overall satisfaction with the quality of the course. In other words we wanted to know the most important factors affecting the overall students’ experience are. The results suggest that the ‘Quality of learning and teaching’ is the most important factor affecting the overall experience (Q22) . The second most important is ‘Personal development’. ‘Learning resources’ is the least important factor affecting the overall experience. So if you want to improve your score on question 22, ‘Overall Satisfaction’ this suggests that you should concentrate on the issues asked about in the ‘Teaching and Learning’ scale and the ‘Personal development’ scale.

Report: The Experience of Studying English

John Hodgson

John Hodgson

Having taught English at secondary level for many years, John Hodgson made a longitudinal study of young people’s literacy practices and gained his doctorate at the University of the West of England. He is now Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the university and runs a workshop in academic writing. He is Research Officer of the National Association for the Teaching of English (UK).

John Hodgson’s 2010 report, ‘The Experience of Studying English in UK Higher Education‘ (PDF 849kb) is primarily narrative and contains extensive quotations from students. Based on a series of focus groups with English studies undergraduates from six institutions, it explores the current student experience of the discipline.

Four main themes were addressed through the focus groups. In the first of these, The Experience of Male Students, men talk about their experience of studying what is frequently characterised as a “feminine” or “feminised” subject. The second theme, Reading Habits, addressed lecturers’ concerns about the extent of students’ knowledge, including the breadth of their reading, their capacity for close analysis, and their understanding of theoretical approaches to literature. The third theme, Assessment and Feedback, addressed the aspect of university study about which, according to the National Student Survey, students continue to be least satisfied. A fourth theme, Progression, was studied implicitly rather than raised directly in the focus groups, but was important in gauging students’ sense of the meaning of their studies.

John is following up this report by conducting a further series of focus groups on behalf of the Subject Centre, this time with joint honours students of English. The report of this work will be published in the spring of 2011.

Other relevant reports: