National Student Survey 2011 Response
Top Ten Recommendations
Overall Satisfaction by Department
Assessment and Feedback
Organisation and Management
Online companion to this report An online companion to this report can be found at imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport. Resources available include: •
Interactive tables and graphs of NSS results and response rates by department.
Imperial College Union’s Feedback Policy
Case study of MSc Strategic Marketing’s innovative teaching methods
Blogs by Sabbatical Officers on the Union’s ongoing work on learning & teaching quality in College.
NSS 2011 Response Page 2 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Introduction The Student Experience These three words, though simple in form, have become the cornerstone to the current government’s Higher Education policy. Students as ‘customers’ will demand a great experience, they say, with ‘market forces’ dispelling the lesser performing institutes from the higher price brackets. But how do you measure ‘The Student Experience’ (TSE) and how do you ensure it’s good?
Scott Heath President E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 020 7594 8060, extension: 58061
Reflecting upon the recent Sunday Times league table that resulted in an elevenplace drop for Imperial College, from 3rd to 14th, it is clear that many people see the National Students Survey (NSS) as an indicator of TSE. The survey has been reinforced with a new question about students’ unions, one of the biggest providers of TSE in the form of volunteering, social provisions, clubs and societies and more. In this new environment we expect more weight to be added to the NSS results as tables across the country try to weigh up the value of an institute’s strengths and weaknesses to this empowered student ‘customer’.
Jason Parmar Deputy President (Education) E: email@example.com T: 020 7594 8060, extension: 45646
NSS 2011 Response Page 3 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Introduction cont... The Union has long been lobbying, and more importantly helping, the College to address frequent issues flagged up in the NSS – this can be seen with improvements in the Feedback section. However the time has come for uniform and bold moves. No longer should small steps be taken in our pursuit for a more satisfied student. Innovations must be utilized, advice taken on board and most importantly visible changes implemented. Care needs to be taken to how this is done. Chemistry, a Department that suffered in this years’ NSS, improved feedback, introduced reading weeks and is a great example of the changes that subjects can make to benefit students. However, by making dramatic improvements for first and second year students only, they failed to win favour with the graduating students. Another example is that of Life Sciences, where an unpopular and controversial restructure that left a great many students and staff dissatisfied has been reflected in negative results and comments. What this shows is that the College must look at where it introduces changes. Are there cases where it is better to apply new strategies to the older, smaller and soon-to-be-leaving cohort over the larger, new intake?
NSS 2011 Response Page 4 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Finally the College needs to work hard on communication. It must become clear to all students that SOLE is the place to discuss the term and the NSS is the place to discuss the course. Only through good communication of what the survey means can we expect higher turnout, and an accurate measure of the success or failure of the changes we make. We know the NSS isn’t a perfect measurement: the disparity between the College’s cumulative average mark and the overall satisfaction percentage show this. However we need to work together to improve everything before the next survey, and the next league table results.
Scott Heath President 2011/12
Jason Parmar Deputy President (Education) 2011/12
Top Ten Recommendations • College actively encourage and reward innovation in teaching. • The President & Deputy President (Education) sit on Strategic Education Committee. • Transparent and formal training for lecturers with biennial review. • Work with the union to make teaching awards truly studentled. • Provide model example coursework for markers with weightings for students. • Create an online automated feedback system to help reform the personal tutor system. • Ensure student consultation on major changes. • Use technology and social media to promote nss and sole, and their results. • Provide dedicated time and funding for buddy activities. • Introduce a UG Transferable Skills Programme integrated with the Union’s representation system, Clubs, Societies & Projects. NSS 2011 Response Page 5 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
overall satisfaction aeronautical engineering 71% satisfaction
chemical engineering 81% satisfaction
joint maths & computing 83% satisfaction
NSS NSS 2011 2011 Response Response Page Page 6 6 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport imperialcollegeunion.org/sabbs
mechanical engineering 85% satisfaction
earth science engineering 98% satisfaction
electrical engineering 87% satisfaction
biomedical sciences 88% satisfaction
NSS NSS2011 2011Response Response Page Page77 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport imperialcollegeunion.org/sabbs
TEACHING 83% 84% 2011
“Staff are good at explaining things” “Staff have made the subject interesting” “Staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching” NSS 2011 Response “The course is intellectually stimulating” Page 8 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
“Some of the lecturers are the best in their field and teach really well. Some even go all the way to learning everyone’s name, future ambitions, etc.” Biochemistry Student
“The lecturers are not as enthusiastic about teaching as I expected.” Chemistry Student
“All staff are passionate about their subjects and happy to talk to you and give advice. I am proud of the degree I have earned and think that the academic demands of the department mean that it is a widely respected qualification” Earth Science & Engineering Student
“The lecturer’s method of teaching was not very useful. The material was covered too quickly, they didn’t make it fun to learn and as a result I saw the number of students attending lectures decrease throughout the term. Mostly all the knowledge I have accummulated has been selftaught or through the help of other students.”
“The teaching skills in some subjects are not the best. Consulting the lecturers for extra help is a bit difficult as they are usually busy. There’s not a lot of help when it comes to one on one teaching.” Electrical & Electronic Engineering Student
Electrical & Electronic Engineering Student
NSS 2011 Response Page 9 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Teaching College’s performance in the teaching category has remained relatively flat over the past three years. A dichotomy can be seen between the results of the most effective & innovative lecturers, and the least. The highest positive response in this section is recorded for Question Four, “The course is intellectually stimulating.” This is the result of academic staff, who are heavily engaged in research, should have enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge about the courses they deliver. Students commented how they found their lecturers ‘inspirational’ adding that field expertise often made lectures more stimulating and their background knowledge in the workplace provided useful advice. The worst performing part of this section is Question Two, “Staff have made the subject interesting.” We feel elements of this relate to courses and departments in which the lack of variety in teaching methods, as well as our institutional stubbornness to embrace innovative and new technologies, has failed to bring about increasing levels of satisfaction. Many negative comments from students in this section related to lecturers being unable to spare time to answer questions, a feeling of unimportance associated with teaching and the sizes of classes not being small enough. We have identified nine areas of discussion which have the potential to improve our performance significantly.
NSS 2011 Response Page 10 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Training Being a good researcher doesnâ€™t automatically make you a good lecturer. More formal training is required for lecturers which must include: how to explain concepts simply and effectively; how to efficiently assess both work and abilities and how to provide constructive feedback.
We also advise the launch of a training programme to help familiarise existing lecturers with new technologies and good practice. Individual staff membersâ€™ teaching and marking skills must be reviewed regularly.
This Training system must be transparent, so that students trust in their lecturersâ€™ capabilities and understand what they should be delivering. Baseline standards should be enforced across College, supplemented with frequent reviews.
Union recommendation Transparent and formal training for lecturers with biennial review; increased training in new technologies and practice for current academics.
NSS 2011 Response Page 11 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Teaching cont... Teaching vs Research There is a lingering perception amongst students that lecturers prioritise research over teaching. The college must further incentivise teaching by solidifying the claimed link between teaching ability and promotion by displaying criteria in an easilyaccessible, public location. Promotion and hiring processes must be transparent and designed to ensure lecturers have a high level of teaching ability. Student faith in this system is crucial.
Union Recommendation Make the promotion system clear and transparent to students, and ensure teaching ability and familiarity with modern techniques are given a high priority.
NSS 2011 Response Page 12 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Student On-Line Evaluation (SOLE) Popular opinion is that SOLE results are something Departments ignore. Best practice in some departments has SOLE as a powerful tool for spotting individual teaching problems and successes – this must be spread to all departments with some force behind it. Departments have responsibility to clearly communicate in a detailed way implications and changes resulting from SOLE. The Union wishes to help facilitate this with a ‘you said, we did’ impact campaign. Furthermore, individual lecturers can assist by emphasising positive differences in their course which has been a result of SOLE; personal or academic tutors can use the survey as a discussion point for areas to focus on when providing advice to students and, most importantly, students themselves can feel that they can influence their course design.
“…the department really listens to our feedback. I can only think of one lecturer which was terrible, but after SOLE he was promptly removed. I am very happy with my course.” Earth Science & Engineering Student
“Students don’t always feel that their views are listened to; perhaps why response rates to surveys of teaching e.g. SOLE aren’t as good as they could be.” Medical Student
Union Recommendation Work with the Union on a ‘You Say, We Did’ campaign within each department to promote changes in teaching as a direct result of SOLE.
NSS 2011 Response Page 13 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Teaching cont... Teaching Awards Our current system of Student-led Teaching Awards is opaque and inconsistent. The Student-led Teaching Awards should be strengthened and made uniform across departments, through the implementation of a basic standard procedure. The Awards must be designed in a way that garners trust, not only of the student body, but also staff and need to be visible, prominent and prestigious part of the teaching experience. Such a strengthened system needs College backing and considerable effort from the Union to galvanise students and their representatives into running it with consistency. It should culminate in a celebration that emphasises that these awards are for the staff, by the students.
We also feel that categories may need to be extended to ‘Best Academic Tutor’, ‘Best Personal Tutor’ and ‘Best Demonstrator’ to emphasise that lecturing is not the only part of the learning experience.
EXAMPLE Edinburgh University Students’ Association hosts a remarkably large student-led teaching award system. In 2010-11 they received 5168 nominations for 777 staff members. The award-winning lecturers are invited to take part in a special conference entitled ‘Inspiring Teaching’; which encourages the sharing of best teaching practice across the University. Combining workshops and talks this event has a large number of student and staff attendees and has been credited with helping the awards system gain gravitas and purpose.
Union Recommendation College and the Union work together to extend Teaching Awards to every Department, and ensure they are popular, respected and truly student-led.
NSS 2011 Response Page 14 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Academic Tutorials Students want more access to Academic support. Academic tutorials are meant to be a forum to discuss with peers the difficulties you have encountered, to find solutions and to practice techniques, to improve performance. Too frequently students feel dissatisfied with the commitment of their Academic tutors. To aid with the first part of the ‘tutorial experience’ the Union is continuing to strengthen its buddy system through the online allocation method it trialled this year. Greater peer-interaction, especially across years, can help facilitate more peer-learning. To aid with the second part, we advise that course coordinators should offer lectures as standard at the end of the term, or year, which recap the topics most requested by students. Such ‘revision’ lectures happen already in some courses but consistency across the board would benefit all students. Lecturers should also make it clear when and how students can approach them with questions, whether through published office contact hours, specified email slots or other methods.
“More tutorials. Do mostly clinical stuff. We don’t get much group teaching.” Medical Student
“More tutorial style classes, or more regular seminar style classes with 10-20 people and group work would make a better community feeling between students rather than just lectures.” Physics Student “We each have personal tutors but some are not happy to go through student’s academic problems with them, some do not seem to be able to help with the problems!” Maths Student
Union Recommendation Lecturers hold “revision” lectures as standard, and clearly communicate their availability.
NSS 2011 Response Page 15 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Teaching cont... Podcasting
Lecture material guidelines
Lectures should be as accessible as possible.
Inconsistency in lecture notes provides unnecessary hurdles for students.
There is unanimous support from the student body for a podcasting system, similar to that of Echo360 in the Business School. To be successful, it must be introduced across all departments and faculties in the College. The long-term benefits of such a system far outweigh logistical issues. Giving students the ability to access recordings of lectures on demand would be a substantial leap forward for teaching and learning at Imperial.
Whether established across the College, a Faculty or a Department, a minimum standard for all lecture material should be established. This should include an acceptable duration before online availability, a minimum range of acceptable formats, specified machine readability, and a description of in-lecture provisions.
This links directly to our belief of the need for blended learning in the College.
Union Recommendation Union Recommendation College fully support a universal audiovisual lecture recording and podcasting system.
NSS 2011 Response Page 16 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Introduce standardised lecture material guidelines, which encourage promptness and use of new technology.
Only through technology can teaching be delivered more effectively.
MIT Open Courseware.
As an institute of technology students believe that the College should be pioneering technology in teaching rather than following. The modernisation of teaching involves using technology to more effectively and efficiently communicate information between students and staff.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has revolutionised the online learning capabilities of students (and the World as a whole) by unlocking access to 2,000 courses. Providing free lecture notes, exams and videos for a decade, all without registration, this resource is the flagship of the true potential that open-sourcing has.
The Union and its members believe that technological innovations provide the most potential in improving standards. Options such as the Virtual Learning Environment, the Imperial App, iTunes U, recorded lectures and podcasting must be rationalised across College. Universality is necessary to allow this system to achieve its maximum potential and open-sourcing is needed to facilitate the natural curiosity of students. The Union supports the e-learning committeeâ€™s call for all online learning systems to be incorporated into one strategy, and possibly one online source. Though good practice from other institutions should be taken up we advise that Imperial should be taking a lead in this area and not waiting for other institutions to move in this direction.
Union Recommendation College actively encourage and reward innovations in teaching methods, eg MSc in Strategic Marketing.
NSS 2011 Response Page 17 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Teaching cont... Strategic Education Committee
Students should be represented at all levels of academic discussion.
Russell Group Universities with student representation on all institution-wide academic committees: Birmingham Liverpool Bristol LSE Cambridge Manchester Cardiff Newcastle Edinburgh Nottingham Glasgow Oxford King’s College Sheffield London Southampton Leeds UCL
The Union recommends that the President and Deputy President (Education) be made full members of College’ Strategic Education Committee. This near-universal practice in British universities ensures that sabbatical officers input on the highest committee that deals solely with academic and educational issues.
Russell Group Universities without student representation on all academic committees: Imperial Queen’s University Belfast
Union recommendation The Deputy President (Education) and Union President to sit as full members of the Strategic Education Committee.
NSS 2011 Response Page 18 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
NSS 2011 Response Page 19 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Assessment and Feedback 54% 52% 52% 2011
“Fe is us
“The criteria used in marking have been clear in advance” “Assessment arrangements and marking have been fair” “Feedback on my work has been prompt” “I have received detailed comments on my work” NSS 2011 “Feedback onResponse my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand” Page 20 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
“Up until final year, feedback for coursework was mostly poor. The grades given often felt like numbers that had been drawn out of thin air.”
“Feedback given is considered. Online submission system very effective.” Computing Student
Aeronautical Engineering Student
eedback when delivered sually of good quality and helpful.”
Mechanical Engineering Student
edback from previous years ppears to have been well implemented.” Medical Student
“Feedback on work that is handed in is very poor and work takes very long to be marked.”
“Improved recently in term of feedback.” Biomedical Sciences Student
Aeronautical Engineering Student
“Lack of transparency in marking. Lack of communication about assessments/oral exams (although this is improving). Very slow feedback from lab scripts in the first three years.”
“I never get sufficient marking schemes or feedback from work I hand in. You just get a letter grade, and so I don’t know how I can improve myself. That’s the weakness of the course.”
NSS 2011 Response Page 21
Assessment and Feedback Assessment & feedback are the weakest areas of almost every department in College, and played a significant role in our drop in recent league tables. In this category, College ranks 163rd of the 168 UK higher education institutions ranked in the NSS. Only 54% of students approve of feedback overall, with seven departments receiving 50% or below for satisfaction. We believe that a step-change is required to address this problem. A wide-ranging approach must be taken, which should establish reliability into the feedback system, improve technical support for giving feedback, review how coursework is set and reevaluated, and simplify the feedback process for all involved. All departments should actively seek to improve their feedback results. Those near the top can’t be allowed to coast, especially in the context of College-wide poor results. We want a ‘race to the top’ on student satisfaction. The College and Union should constantly seek to gather up best practice in improving feedback from across the sector, by making it part of conversations we have with fellow institutions. Only through the sharing of best practice via the Russell Group, Aldwych Group, etc. can we ensure we are keeping ahead of student expectations. The most noticeable improvement over the past three years has been the promptness of feedback, which is steadily rising. We believe this is a small sign that the joint work over the past few years focusing on feedback is beginning to come to fruition and such rises may become a trend for the next few years as well. However, the positives of promptness, detailed comments and clarification due to feedback were countered with drops in clarity of criteria and fair assessment. We believe this may be due to too much focus on promptness and not enough attention to quality; after all there is no point in receiving quick feedback if you feel it has been unfairly or inadequately marked.
NSS 2011 Response Page 22 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Feedback Deadlines for feedback must always be adhered to. Feedback needs to be prompt. To students, learning is an evolutionary process, and reliable feedback on coursework is crucial to identifying mistakes, weaknesses and priorities for revision. Feedback on coursework that is returned late, in some cases even after the following piece of work, causes students to miss important opportunities to improve.
The typical arguments are that this is an infringement of academic freedom and departmental independence; however this is not accepted by students who are reliant on quality feedback to progress in their studies. The Union has a ‘Feedback Policy’, available online, that details the views of the students on Feedback commitments.
One way to solve this issue is to make the markers’ deadlines as compulsory as students’ submission deadlines.
Union recommendation Implement strict College-wide deadline for marking & feedback completion, and communicate to staff and students.
NSS 2011 Response Page 23 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Assessment and Feedback cont... Marking Marking must always be fair. Sufficient training needs to be delivered to all who mark assessed pieces of work. Students are no more dissatisfied than when they receive a grade they feel is unfair or get inconsistent marks for pieces of work of a similar standard. Through the provision of constructive feedback students can build upon their work and ensure their standard does not slip. The implementation of double marking along with ‘quality checking’ of the work of markers can help guarantee fairness in this process. We believe all courses should provide model examples of work can as they highlight the necessary style and feel of work. This ensures students aren’t penalised for the way they present their work. Furthermore the provision of clearly defined mark schemes ensures that all assessed pieces of work are fairly marked, the students are aware of the weighting given before they do the work and understand the rationale behind their marks.
“Assessment of coursework is sometimes done by different markers/tutors and so different students can be subject to different standards of marking which can be quite unfair.” Biology Student
“In terms of feedback and grading of reports (e.g. lab reports or essays), it is sometimes very unclear exactly how points are deducted. This seems to depend on the person assessing the work, which makes one wonder how fair the system is if the grade received depends on the marker. It would be good if all markers had the same expectations of the level of our work, instead of some being nicer and others “stricter”. I am sure this is an aspect that can be improved on.” Biology Student
“There should be a clear timetable when work is handed back and there should be a clear break down of where the mark where awarded and where they weren’t.” Chemistry Student
Union recommendation NSS 2011 Response Page 24 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Each piece of coursework to have its weighting, in regard to the final mark, made clear when it is set.
Coursework Relevance Most students feel that they receive work for the sake of having work. Coursework must be regularly reviewed, annually or biennially, to ensure relevance, necessity and to seek improvement. Most importantly such reviews should ensure the time dedicated to the task relates to relative worth – nobody enjoys doing 30 hours of work for 1% of that year’s marks. Furthermore the core objectives of the assessment must be achieved by completing the task. If, once the work is complete, there is no feeling of knowledge gain or purpose, the perception of the task will be that it was pointless.
“The volume of work (coursework and projects) in second year was way too much. It adversely affected how much one put into each module so limited what one gained (learnt and understood) from each module.” Biomedical Engineering Student
“I think the course could be better if there were fewer pieces of coursework, as it would allow more time to do background reading and understand the lectures.” Chemical Engineering Student
“Every piece of work counted for the degree. [There was] no chance to practice first then be assessed on a similar topic later.” Chemistry Student
The Civil Engineering Department has a system called CHECK, a flowchart used to assess coursework against such criteria. This way, students are assured that the work they are assigned is known to be useful and productive, rather than repeating the same work year for year.
Union recommendation Every Department to create a mechanism to annually check the usefulness and relevance of coursework.
NSS 2011 Response Page 25 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Assessment and Feedback cont... Making feedback easier for academics and students Feedback needs to be easy to give, and easy to receive. The use of an automated system can readily reduce the burden on academics. As such the College and the Union should investigate a way to automate and facilitate feedback; both in writing and accessing it. We envisage software that allows a marker to instantly type or transcribe feedback for each student as they mark; which is then saved and made available to the cohort once completed. An automated email informing each student their feedback is completed and available would then be delivered. Integration of tools, such as checklisting, can speed up the process of allocating marks and ensure the process is transparent. This facility could also be integrated into the ImperialApp so that feedback is at the fingertips of every student. This system would prevent any administrative delay in returning work, allows academics to mark work away from College without risk of losing paper copies and saves time for students.
NSS 2011 Response Page 26 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Furthermore, the online storage of the feedback means students can access the data as and when the need it; sometimes a subject area will not be revisited for a term or year. The system would also allow markers to track common trends across whole classes, departments, or faculties. For example, if a large number of students are struggling with a set study skill it could be flagged and addressed on a larger scale. It also links to the role of personal tutors, which we will return to later in this document, as they will have access to all assessed work of their personal tutees.
EXAMPLE At St Andrews they operate a piece of software called the Module Management System, which partially fulfils the requirements of the proposed programme we have discussed. User guide are visible at: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/mms/guides.html
Potential features of the proposed software: •
Integration with ImperialApp (notification demonstrated here)
Method of gathering reliable cohortwide information
Feedback remains accessible online for duration of degree
Prevents issues of legibility of marker’s handwriting
Can be integrated with online coursework submission system
Option for Personal Tutors to have detailed overview of tutees’ academic performance to date
Mock-up of proposed Imperial App feedback notification on iPhone.
Union recommendation College and the Union work on a major project: the creation of a feedback & assessment programme that simplifies and automates the process for staff & students.
NSS 2011 Response Page 27 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Assessment and Feedback cont... Trends in cohorts
Condensed study guides
Donâ€™t rely on peer groups to realise their collective misunderstandings.
Bite-sized content is always more effective.
Some markers send out an email to their cohort detailing common mistakes in the most recent piece of group coursework. This email, which is delivered as soon as possible, ensures students get early direction long before they receive their individual assessment back.
The Study Guide produced by the College, with input from the Union, is a remarkably thorough and useful resource, covering 4 large sections: Learning Skills, Learning Environments, Skill Development and Assessment and Feedback.
We consider this to be best practice and recommend that this become standard across all departments. We also propose that this function be included in the previously mentioned software, so, for example, a student would receive an email with group information first, a few days/a week later they receive their personal feedback with the group comments available as well.
We advise reproducing the Feedback section as an independent, smaller guidebook to enhance readership of the material. Through an online compulsory test the College can ensure students have read and understood it, hopefully reducing the lack of awareness of feedback, such as tutorials. Such misunderstanding of feedback creates unattainable expectations that are part of the problem.
Notify students in advance collectively of common mistakes made in coursework modules.
Provide a condensed study guide solely focused on feedback, and conduct a compulsory online test.
NSS 2011 Response Page 28 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Representation & Welfare Board
The recycling of exam questions is unnecessary and causes more issues than it solves.
The Union considers its student representation system a priority.
Departments, such as Chemistry, allow access on their website to several years worth of past papers. This ensures all students can read past papers prior to sitting an examination and does not give an unfair advantage to those with the networks to acquire the previous exams.
The Union is reforming its representation system in order to free up time for academic issues, and to improve decision-making rather than solely discussion.
However we should highlight that, in the interest of fairness, we would advise that only style and not content is replicated in successive examinations.
“The reuse of past exam questions in several modules was a little disappointing as it simply allowed people to learn the answers beforehand.”
“Most lecturers don’t really care about undergraduate students e.g. the same questions keep turning up in the exams” Aeronautical Engineering Student
Chemical Engineering Student
Prevent the excessive recycling of exam questions.
The Union will reform its Representation & Welfare Board to better handle academic matters.
NSS 2011 Response Page 29 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Academic Support 73% 70% 70% 2011
“I have received sufficient advice and support with my studies” “I have been able to contact staff when I needed to” NSS 2011 Response “Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices” Page 30 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
“All staff have been extremely helpful and supportive throughout our four years of study with special mention of our head academic tutor who can be described as simply amazing at the work she does for us.” Earth Science & Engineering Student
“Staff not very supportive. Very little attention paid to students’ needs” Chemical Engineering Student
NSS 2011 Response Page 31
Academic Support Performance in this category has also been relatively flat for the past three years. The most noticeable improvement has been in the area of ability to contact staff, which grew by 5%. We feel this is due to the proliferation of email which allows rapid and easy communication. The weakest part of Academic Support relates to advice and support. Central to this is the wide variability of standards, even within departments, relating to Personal Tutors. Furthermore, unavailability of sufficient support means ratings for study choice advice are low. It is also relevant to highlight that a large portion of a course syllabus is core, so when a student makes a poorly informed course choice there will be fewer ‘good opportunities’ to rectify this than at some other institutions. We recommend that students and staff be told explicitly to discuss how to make considered study choices, and that the buddy system should help facilitate such discussions.
“A personal tutor who actually know and understands my academic strengths [and weaknesses] would be better.”
“My personal tutor has been especially helpful and available for me.” Biology Student
“It’s confusing about what your personal tutor does and how you are looked after.” Chemistry Student
NSS 2011 Response Page 32 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
“Have not heard from my personal tutor for two years.” Computing Student
Buddy System Sometimes the best advice comes from friends.
“The buddy system should be given more timetabled time in 1st year.” Chemical Engineering Student
A buddy system has long existed at the College with a mixed range of success and implementation. The Medical School’s Mums and Dads is an example of a very successful scheme. At the Union we are continually trying to improve the system. This year we introduced an online pairing system and provided greater guidance. However to make a real success we will need the full support of all departments. Dedicated timetabled slots for buddy activities during the welcome week are necessary as well as some funding to provide refreshments at the first gathering.
Union recommendation Departments should allocate time and funding in Welcome Week to bring ‘buddies’ together.
NSS 2011 Response Page 33 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Academic Support cont... Personal Tutors Personal Tutors are a vital conduit in the welfare network of the College. The Union believes that the Personal Tutor (PT) system needs fundamental reform and a boost in support by College and individual departments. Students widely report a lack of contact and meaningful support from their tutors. With participation rates varying widely across departments students can report vastly different levels of support.
We believe PTs should be given access to information about their tuteesâ€™ academic progression, potentially through the feedback software previously mentioned. This data, combined with regular meetings, at least once a term, can ensure the student is receiving meaningful advice and issues they encounter are dealt with. Departments need to strictly enforce meetings of tutorial groups and emphasise the studentsâ€™ right to request a different PT. Guidance should be provided to PTs on what topics to cover, what welfare facilities are available and
Reform the Personal Tutor system across College in participation with the Union.
Integrate a reformed Personal Tutor system with the proposed Assessment & Feedback software.
NSS 2011 Response Page 34 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
where students can get extra support. Such materials must be concise and accessible. Furthermore we feel small budgets should also be allocated by departments to encourage staff to interact with students in a friendlier environment i.e. go for a coffee to discuss issues. We feel this would improve attendance by both parties and enhance the experience for all involved.
EXAMPLE PhD students in the Department of Computing have an online system where they must indicate they have seen their supervisor. Those who do not see their supervisor automatically get a meeting with a senior staff member and the supervisor is contacted. This not only encourages the supervisors to see their students but ensures meetings occur.
The Union will be producing a full campaign on the topic of personal tutors later in the year.
Enforce the organisation of termly meetings between tutors & tutees.
Allocate small budgets to encourage more informal interaction between students and staff.
NSS 2011 Response Page 35 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Academic Support cont... Poster Boards
Alternative Careers Fair
To solve an issue you must know who’s there to help.
Students need all-encompassing careers advice.
The Union is putting up poster boards in every department to give students the contact details they need: Departmental Representative, Year Representatives, Academic Affairs Officer, Faculty Union President, Union contacts, Senior Tutor and Director of Undergraduate Studies.
The Union is working on improving the information available to students about ‘non-traditional’ career paths. Too often students feel like they are being prepared for a career in the banking sector. This also forms an important part of the Union’s recently completed five-year Strategic Review.
“I think we would like to have a bit more guidance in terms of the career we can explore after uni. A lot of the guidance is just about finance and investment banking.” Biology Student
Departments should cooperate with student representatives and put up poster boards.
College should help run an ‘Alternative Careers Fair’ in collaboration with the Union and other organisations.
NSS 2011 Response Page 36 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
NSS 2011 Response Page 37 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Organisation and Management 79% 78% 77% 2011
“The timetable works efficiently as far as my activities are concerned” “Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively” NSS 2011 Response “The course is well organised and is running smoothly” Page 38 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
“The fact that the timetable was very clearly lay out. The way our department runs things is one timetable per term and sticks to it so no conflicts with rooms or missing lectures.” Materials Student
“Only receive timetables the week before each course starts so very difficult to plan ahead as no idea whether I will be in a lab, lecture etc. in a month’s time.” Biology Student
NSS 2011 Response Page 39 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Organisation and Management The Union hopes with the launch of the Imperial Mobile Application that the Organisation and Management Section of the NSS will continue to improve. We feel that College needs to ensure that timetables offer practicality for students, as well as staff. Frequently we hear of people having one lecture at a rather inconvenient point in the day that making travelling in seems quite pointless. We hope that changes to lecture theatre usage and the working day will reduce this. The biggest drop in this section was recorded by Biology. This is due to a combination of timetabling habits in the department and the Life Science Restructure. The biggest gain was Materials, whose students commended their timetables: â€œThe fact that the timetable was very clearly laid out. The way our department runs things is one timetable per term and sticks to it so no conflicts with rooms or missing lectures.â€?
Timetabling The only way students can attend a lecture is if they know where it is. It would be unreasonable for anyone to expect a timetable not to change; sometimes people get ill or rooms are unable to be used. However, it is reasonable to expect information about timetable alterations as quick as possible. With the new Imperial App we see a potential to message students directly when lectures change. Furthermore, through the implementation of a text system the college could ensure those who have not seen an email are aware of alterations to their day plan. A prime example of this was the day in 2009 when snow stopped transport across London. Had a text been sent to all students advising them not to come in, a greater number would not have endeavoured to do so.
NSS 2011 Response Page 40 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Course changes Discuss all major course changes with students. Big changes to course content and departments, such as the recent changes to Life Sciences, must be communicated to students well. This needs to involve meaningful student consultation from the early stages of planning to prevent poor decision-making, bad publicity and mass student resentment.
â€œIt would be nice if Imperial had actually listened to the requests of students with regards to the life sciences restructure.â€? Biology Student
As a minimum, we recommend that standards of how to conduct student consultation should be set out in agreement with the Union. They should including minimum time periods, mandatory opinion-gathering methods and transparent decision-making, to ensure students and staff can have faith in the process.
Effectively communicate timetable changes via text message, email, or the Imperial App.
All major course changes to have a formal student consultation run in agreement with the Union.,
NSS 2011 Response Page 41 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Learning Resources 90% 90% 90% 2011
“The library resources and services are good enough for my needs” “I have been able to access general IT resources when I needed to” NSS 2011 “I have been ableResponse to access specialised equipment, facilities, or roomS when I Page 42 needed to” imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
“The IT systems are great and you can use computers anywhere you want. The library is open for 24 hours which is really good for studying.” Maths Student
“Library and IT facilities are absolutely outstanding.” Medical Student
NSS 2011 Response Page 43
Learning Resources The learning resources at Imperial are ranked 5th in the UK and have consistently performed well. However we feel that we should not become complacent about this section of the NSS. Challenges, such as the Libraryâ€™s battle with journal companies and the availability of computers across campus, have the potential to erode our high position. To ensure this doesnâ€™t happen the College must continue to invest in the area, become more innovative and daring with its IT provisions and invest in infrastructure that delivers specialised facilities for the students.
NSS 2011 Response Page 44 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
The Union has a policy supporting the Library’s fight against high journal costs.
It’s time to utilise the abundance of smartphones in the student population.
Students, particularly post-graduates, are affected by the sector-wide issue of the increase in journal prices. College needs to work with the sector to bring down the costs and adopt the latest ways of accessing journals, such as online ordering.
The Imperial App is an innovation with considerable potential as a ‘portal’ for all kinds of information and resources. Integration with the Virtual Learning Environment should be a strategic priority for developing the app. Furthermore it must continue to be constantly improved, as the potential is too great for any complacency or delay to be tolerated.
Support the Union and Library in the campaign against unfair journal pricing.
Integrate the App with the VLE and continuously seek ways to add new services and features.
NSS 2011 Response Page 45 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Learning Resources cont... E-Learning Itâ€™s time to provide 21st Century education. E-learning should be a strategic priority; it is essential that we lead this internationally. The college should be rivalling institutions such as MITâ€™s OpenCourseware and investigating ideas such as Aoyama Gakuin University of Japan, who give all students iPhones to record attendance and distribute learning materials. The College should manage the spread of technology into studentsâ€™ learning methods proactively, rather than responding slowly to the rapid change of student habits. Furthermore it should continually assess the technologies that students use during their education prior to University to realise student expectations and capabilities.
Union recommendation College to actively endorse and support future e-learning possibilities and the e-LSC
NSS 2011 Response Page 46 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Surveys Students are motivated by visible change. We feel that surveys such as NSS or SOLE need to be pushed more actively. College could assist with promotion by linking advertisements and use of IT. This could include adverts when students log in to PCs, NSS promotion on desktop backgrounds, or unavoidable pages when accessing email.
“Students don’t always feel that their views are listened to perhaps why response rates to surveys of teaching e.g. SOLE aren’t as good as they could be.” Medical Student
The results of surveys need to be made equally visible and prominent. As previously mentioned, the Union wishes to help facilitate this by conducting a ‘You Said, We Did’ Campaign. We feel that only by showing that real changes that campus-wide surveys cause can College guarantee student buy-in.
Union recommendation College to use technology, such as IT and social media, to promote NSS and SOLE and their effects.
NSS 2011 Response Page 47 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Personal Development 80% 81% 78% 2011
“The course has helped me present myself with confidence” “My communication skills have improved” NSS 2011 “As a result ofResponse the course, I feel confident in tackling unfamiliar problems” Page 48 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
“The work and problems that I have been exposed to give me the confidence that I understand the subject and could tackle other problems if necessary.” Civil & Environmental Engineering Student
“Feel the course has in fact reduced my confidence in abilities. Only once have I felt that the staff have actually wanted me to succeed and improve for next time.”
“The course has increased my ability in solving unfamiliar problems and increased my confidence as a whole.” Electrical & Electronic Engineering Student
“Gave me confidence in my ability to adapt to different situations and challenges. Improved [my] communication [and] teamwork skills.” Materials Student
NSS 2011 Response Page 49
Personal Development Imperial has the most employable students in the country. Subsequently we would expect students to believe they had some of the best Personal Development opportunities in the UK; however we ranked 90th. This section saw a universal drop with respect to the 2010 results. In part this area is affected by feedback; the better it is the more confident you are at approaching new problems. We have identified several areas to focus on:
Extend presentation and communication skill-building opportunities for UG and PG students.
Consider extending Wednesday afternoon breaks to PG students to promote social activity.
NSS 2011 Response Page 50 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Students need the opportunity to build soft skills.
Last year the college drastically reduced student volunteer opportunities.
We fully supports any effort to build presentation and communication skills into undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. The ‘softer skills’ developed provide an entirely different aspect to the standard degree course which provides employability benefits and confidence boosts.
To fill the hole created by removal of the Volunteer Centre, the Union aims to become the hub of voluntary activity for Imperial students. We hope to offer opportunities across London by linking up with voluntary organisations from other sectors. This is a central part of the Union’s strategic plan and solidifies our goal of offering routes to personal and social development for our members.
Furthermore we feel more emphasis on group learning is needed to facilitate more learning variety. ‘Social capital’ is an important theme of all Union activity for the future, as we increase the number and quality of extra-curricular activities and development opportunities for students. This is intended to expose them to as many different sectors and situations as possible, in an effort to produce wellrounded, highly skilled graduates with the highest academic, social, personal and business abilities.
“Opportunity to do presentations in front of large groups is a confidence booster.” Medical Student
NSS 2011 Response Page 51 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Personal Development cont... Transferable Skills Opportunities for all students. The Union supports the planned extension of transferable skills teaching from PhD to Masters’ students. We actively encourage the development of such programmes for undergraduates. We recommend that this be developed in tandem with the Union’s activities, to make best use of our resources and to align our planning.
Union recommendation Introduce a UG Transferable Skills Programme integrated with the Union’s reps, Clubs, Societies & Projects.
NSS 2011 Response Page 52 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
Strategic Plan Helping students develop their unique Imperial Experience. The Union asks that College takes our new Strategic Plan on board and that relevant College staff actively cooperate with Union staff and sabbaticals to bring our activities in line with each other.
Union recommendation Union recommendation Support the Union in its project to increase volunteering by College students.
College to cooperate with the Unionâ€™s Strategic Plan
NSS 2011 Response Page 53 imperialcollegeunion.org/nssreport
your sabbaticals Your Sabbaticals are elected each year by you the students. They take a year out of their studies and work full-time for the Union as its most senior Officers. Your Sabbatical Officers shape the services and voice of the Union and represent you. To see what your Sabbaticals are doing for you look at our Your Sabbaticals website. Here you can meet each one of them, learn what they do and see what their objectives and campaigns are for the year. They will be blogging regularly about all aspects of the Union, the College and how they have been improving both for you! If you have any questions or feedback on the Union, your Sabbaticals are always available. You can email them or come to the Union Reception, floor 2M and ask for them.
Deputy President (Clubs & Societies)
Deputy President (Education)
Deputy President (Welfare)
Michael Foster Deputy President (Finance & Services) firstname.lastname@example.org
Imperial College Union Beit Quadrangle Prince Consort Road London SW7 2BB
Tel: 020 7594 8060 Fax: 020 7594 8065 Email: email@example.com Twitter: @icunion imperialcollegeunion.org
National Student Survey Response 2011 from Imperial College Union