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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

More information improves student satisfaction scores, research finds

Date 19/11/2015

Universities that offer potential students a wide range of comprehensive information achieve a higher satisfaction score in the National Student Survey (NSS), according to new research published by QAA.

A survey of 38 university websites and interviews with eight universities found that universities with 'high quality scores provided more information'.

The study found that universities in general 'appear to be doing well in providing information of the details of the facilitators of the learning' and offered a 'consistently high amount of information on student workload'.

However, researchers from the University of Surrey and Liverpool Hope University, also found that information was not generally available on expected contact time with the tutors nor the teaching qualifications of staff.

The research, commissioned by QAA to assess how universities use its guidance to inform their provision of information to potential students, found universities' adoption of its recommendations to be 'variable and frequently formulaic'.

Ian Kimber, QAA’s Director of Quality Development, said: 'Our guidance was published in the second half of 2013 and universities have a long lead in time to produce their prospectuses – they are often working eighteen months ahead. So, we expect a delay between the publication of guidance and evidence of universities implementing it.

'We commissioned research in January 2015 to check progress and some has been made. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guidance which published in March 2015, signals the need for improvements to continue in this area.'

The CMA has identified a range of information for students that should be 'easily accessible' in order to comply with consumer protection legislation. The proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) will take the observation of CMA information requirements as a pre-condition for a higher level TEF assessment.

Ian Kimber added: 'Our UK Quality Code for Higher Education and related guidance emphasise to universities the importance of providing sufficient information to enable prospective students to make an informed choice regarding their higher education. The importance of this information is reflected in its featuring in the proposed TEF.

'Not only is this important in giving students the protection required by the law, but it also helps maintain public confidence and protects the standards and reputation of UK higher education.

'Universities and colleges are increasingly sharing with our reviewers their approach to meeting new CMA legislation and demonstrating how the sector is responding to its obligations under consumer law.

'We are working with the sector and the CMA in the ongoing development of this area of the Quality Code.'