NSS is an annual survey of students in their final year of study, at the OU this means students who have completed at least three years of study and achieved at least 120 credits. It is run by the Office for Students, who regulate higher education on behalf of students.
This year, we were really pleased to see that our overall satisfaction rating increased by 1% to 87%. We also increased in the university NSS rankings too, with the OU moving from 39th place to 20th.
As a four nations University, we are pleased with our ranking across each nation:
Across the 27 questions in the 8 categories this year, we saw an increase in satisfaction on 22 questions and stayed the same on the remaining 5 questions. View the table of the OU ratings by question for the last two years.
Outlined below are the main areas of feedback we have heard from students this year.
The category with the biggest increase of 4% was organisation and management. This was the area where we saw the biggest decrease in the 2017 results. While we have not yet returned to the same levels of satisfaction prior to 2017, we are pleased to see that the work we have undertaken in the last year is beginning to have an impact.
Over the last year, we have focused relentlessly on improving the delivery of tuition strategies to ensure that they are timely, accessible and relevant. We plan on building on this work this year through the outputs of a new Student Satisfaction Working Group jointly chaired by the OU Students Association President and the OU’s Director of Teaching. A new Student Satisfaction plan will be developed and implemented to focus on the experience of ALL students, not just those due to be surveyed by NSS.
We have maintained high scores in the assessment and feedback category, and were delighted to see that we ranked first amongst participating universities in 2018 at 86% (from 85% and 2nd place in 2017). We will however, be continuing to make improvements in this area. In 2017, we saw a 5% decrease in question ‘The criteria used in marking have been clear in advance’. While we are pleased to see a 1% increase this year, there is still further work to be done for us to build on this.
Our highest rating in the survey overall was in the teaching category with 91% of students surveyed agreeing that OU courses are ‘intellectually stimulating’.
This category was new in 2017 and we are pleased to see that we achieved an increase in satisfaction this year. However, this category is one of two areas where the OU has performed the least well compared to other providers.
We know that it can sometimes feel isolating when you are studying at a distance and that it is much harder to feel part of a student community when you are not regularly attending a campus with fellow students.
We are working on ways we can address this and ensure you are able to connect with your fellow students outside of the tutorials and online forums. Student Hub Live has been working hard to engage learners in new ways and the online skills boot camps which have sprung out of this will be extended and expanded over the next year.
There are four questions relating to student voice and although we have seen increases in all questions, we know this is an area we have to improve to be on par with other providers.
The OU Students Association has been calling for the University to do more to involve students in decision making and to communicate more clearly how we are already using student voice to improve our teaching and study experience.
This Student Voice website is one example of one change we have made over the last year to explain more clearly how we are listening and learning from our students. The You Said, We Did section gives a selection of examples of improvements we have made.
We have also trialled a student shadowing scheme over the last year which provided opportunities for students to learn about the roles, responsibilities and work of OU departments and individual members of staff and for those areas to gain feedback from students on their work. Over 20 students and 11 OU departments took part in the last 6 months. We are now exploring how to roll this out more widely.
Mary Kellett, our Acting Vice-Chancellor, is committed to the University doing more to involve students in our decisions and to ensuring students voices are heard at the highest levels of governance. Our recent ‘critical review’ of change at the OU has also recommended closer working with students. We will now be preparing an action plan on how to do this for the end of September and will be working closely with the OU Students Association on how best to achieve this.