Hepi report on academic experience of students

22 September 2015

Responding to the Hepi report, “The academic experience of students in English universities 2009”, The Director General of the Russell Group, Dr Wendy Piatt, said:

“The combination of teaching and research excellence in Russell Group universities creates an ideal environment for students to become active, self-motivated learners and offers them interaction with the leading thinkers and pioneers in their fields; access to first-rate libraries and facilities; a highly motivated and talented peer group; and opportunities to engage in research processes.

“The student workload, including both timetabled contact hours and private study, is traditionally more demanding at Russell Group universities. Students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own independent learning and will be supported as they direct and pursue their studies. This support includes, for example, senior lecturers operating ‘open door’ policies, where students can seek advice outside of lectures and tutorials. The notion of ‘contact’ or ‘study hours’ does not fully capture these additional opportunities to seek guidance from tutors nor the fact that different disciplines evolve different ways of learning that are appropriate to the subject (as the report recognises), nor the quality and diversity of the student experience at research-intensive universities. The UK rightly operates an outcome-based model of higher education where qualifications are awarded based on achieving a certain standard or level of achievement.   In such a system, measuring the number of hours studied - a measure of input not output - is not a particularly effective indicator of the health of the UK higher education system.

“Moreover, the student experience at university purposefully differs from the learning and teaching environment at school. Universities encourage students to take more responsibility for their own learning and aim to create graduates who are self-starters and show initiative and leadership. Now more than ever, employers need highly skilled graduates; employees who are creative, entrepreneurial, capable problem-solvers and able to handle uncertainty. Russell Group universities are equipping their graduates with these critical attributes, ensuring they are ready for a tough job market.

“The world class reputation of Russell Group universities is built on delivering excellent teaching and research. The fact that we offer a premium product is what attracts international students to our universities. High demand for places, high levels of student satisfaction and the highest levels of student retention in the sector are testament to the quality of the Russell Group learning experience. But maintaining and improving the teaching and learning experience will require increased long-term investment.  Teaching in universities remains significantly underfunded particularly relative to our main international competitors and in terms of what the sector should be investing for a sustainable future.”
Notes to editors

  1. The NUS Student Experience Report 2008 found that Russell Group students, on average, received more contact hours, rated the quality of interaction with staff much more highly and undertook more private study hours than the rest of the sector. The previous Hepi Report on the academic experience of students in 2007 also found that the average amount of teaching received by those studying at Russell Group universities was higher than the sector-average and Russell Group students spent more time on average on their studies than those at other universities.
  2. The study by the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information (CHERI) noted in the HEFCE report, Diversity in the student learning experience and time devoted to study: a comparative analysis of the UK and European evidence (April 2009), explicitly notes that: “too much significance should not be attached to contact hours in isolation from the wider context and conditions…It is safe to conclude that the experience of higher education for UK students is increasingly diverse but that the contours of this diversity are hardly captured by comparison of contact and study hours.”
  3. International student experience and satisfaction of teaching and learning at Russell Group universities can be seen from recent studies by the i-graduate’s International Student Barometer (ISB). IBS is the largest study of the international student experience, the latest results based on feedback from nearly 25,000 students at Russell Group universities. These results from Russell Group international students found that:
  • International students had a higher rate of overall satisfaction at Russell Group universities than by the average overall benchmark.
  • In selecting a university, 97% of students noted that teaching quality and 90% noted research quality as important determining factors in choosing a Russell Group university.
  • 95% of students believe their lectures are experts in their subject area.
  • 89% were satisfied with the academic content of their course.
  • 87% noted their satisfaction with the ability to study with a range of multicultural peers.
  • 84% were satisfied with their ability to get personal support and time from academic staff when it was needed.
  • 82% of students noted that research at the university was an important learning element of their course.
  • Over three quarters of students were satisfied that their learning would help them secure a career
  1. Existing TRAC data (2006/07) shows that both publicly-funded teaching and research are under-funded, with an overall deficit for the UK sector of £1.4 billion.

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