This week we have the honour and pleasure of announcing the annual winners of the Whatuni Student Choice Awards, our annual celebration of the student voice and the excellence of the sector.
While the night is all about the winning institutions, behind the glitz and the glamour there is a great deal of data and insight. With overall satisfaction being removed from the NSS this year, these reviews are a key resource for students in their decision making and give voice to students who are studying.
And there is good news to celebrate. Against a very challenging backdrop – with the cost of living rising and hitting students hard, academics striking over pay, and the very real sense of exhaustion in the sector as universities emerged from the two years of the pandemic – across all eight categories student sentiment has improved compared to last year.
Taking into account over 35,000 reviews, collected at over 240 institutions there are multiple fine examples of the commitment and hard work of university staff in continually striving to help and support students. These stories are at odds with many of the “bad news” stories that pepper the national press.
If we dig a little deeper, we see a pattern emerge – those categories that we can surmise were most impacted by Covid lockdowns have seen the greatest year-on-year improvements in terms of student sentiment. Students’ union is the category that has seen the greatest increase. From having the lowest average review score in 2022 it has risen to have the third highest in 2023. In addition, we have seen impactful increases in the average score students give to student support services and in how students rate their overall university experience.
Another way of slicing the data is by mission group. Looking at the latest 2023 data we see that on average the most satisfied students attend, not the Russell Group, but those institutions represented by GuildHE. This is a trend that is particularly apparent when it comes to the student support category.
It is of particular pride and importance to the team at Whatuni that we are able to highlight great practice across the whole sector as well as using the results to help and guide the next generations of students to make evidence-based decisions about where to study.
There are other themes that we will be unpacking over the next few weeks and months, starting at our Insights Day on 26 April. We’ll be investigating hotspots, such as very positive careers prospects in Northern Ireland, or why students of education and travel, tourism and hospitality are more satisfied than those studying sciences or architecture.
In the meantime, I am looking forward to Wednesday and to joining friends and colleagues from the sector to celebrate their successes.
This article is published in association with IDP Connect.