HEPI survey on the student academic experience

17 May 2012

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“All Russell Group universities place great importance on providing a first-rate education for our students. A huge amount of investment has been made - particularly since 2003 - in improving the teaching, facilities and services available to our students. Millions of pounds have been invested in more books for the library, expensive lab equipment, improved lecture theatres, innovative teaching programmes, the latest software, more professional careers services and smaller class sizes. 

“The student workload, including both contact hours and private study, is rightly demanding at Russell Group universities. But learning at university is a very different experience from learning at school and different disciplines will require different ways of learning so it is important we take the debate away from the narrow confines of contact hours. Students learn in ways that are hard to quantify and they are supported and steered through their studies. Many lecturers operate an ‘open door’ policy where students can get help and advice outside lectures or tutorials. It’s worth noting that this report finds there is no obvious correlation between either contact hours or the amount of time students spend studying and their overall satisfaction.

“The term ‘non-academic staff’ is misleading as it refers primarily to post-doctoral research staff with high-level qualifications and in-depth knowledge of the subject they are teaching. There are obviously more post-doctoral staff in research-intensive universities than other universities and undergraduates benefit hugely from learning in this environment.”

Notes to editors

  1. Overall Russell Group universities have lower drop-out rates, lower staff-to-student ratios, higher levels of student satisfaction and graduates typically go on to earn more than the sector average.
  2. The 2011 National Student Survey shows 87% of students are satisfied with the quality of their university course across Russell Group universities, compared with 83% across universities in the UK.
  3. In 2009/10 there were around 13 students per staff member at Russell Group universities compared to 20 students per staff member for the UK sector.
  4. The latest HESA statistics show for young full-time first degree entrants an average continuation rate at Russell Group universities of 96.5% compared to 92.8% for the UK as a whole.  For all full time first degree entrants the average continuation rate at Russell Group universities is 95.9% compared to 91.4% for the UK as a whole. 
  5. 49% of all postgraduate research students in the UK are studying at Russell Group universities.
  6. The University of Sheffield ear-marked £2.3 million for enhanced student facilities from buying more library books to improved lecture theatres. The University of Nottingham has invested in skilled staff such as graphic designers and software developers in order to improve their innovative teaching programmes. The University of Bristol has invested in their careers service and improved library facilities. The University of Leeds has prioritised reducing their class sizes by 20 per cent since 2001.

Policy area

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