In the increasingly competitive university landscape, the most successful institutions amplify the transformative power of education. As a pillar of the Strategic Plan, the importance of education is reflected in the progress we are making towards our Vision for 2016.
Professor David Bolton, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, examines the work undertaken during 2013 to support student learning, promote excellence in education and enhance the student experience. Efforts in these areas are bearing fruit across the campus, as witnessed in a marked upswing in our National Student Survey performance.
The student experience - from student curriculum quality and placement opportunities to the comfort of the seating in the lecture theatres - has always mattered, but in the age of online social media, word spreads quickly and the testimonies of the people at the sharp end of education are more important than ever. Whether captured by the influential National Student Survey (NSS) or shared among peers via blogs, Facebook or Twitter, the day-to-day experiences of our students are more closely intertwined than ever with the destiny of the University as a whole.
Unprecedented success in the National Student Survey
Evidence that the Strategic Plan is proving effective emerged when the 2013 NSS reported an overall satisfaction rating of 85 per cent for the University, a 7 percentage point increase on 2012. As well as showing the largest increase in England, City also outperformed many other London universities, with above average results on five key measures including access to staff and the availability of specialist facilities and equipment. Climbing 57 places for overall satisfaction, City also scored highly in the teaching category, with a 90 per cent rating.
Based on the opinions of final year undergraduates across most UK universities and colleges, the Survey is most visible indicator of student satisfaction and an invaluable tool in devising and implementing our educational provision. It is also informs the Key Information Sets (KIS), which are available from the Unistats website and help prospective students make an informed choice about their course. Such an impressive showing can only help increase the visibility of the University and raise awareness of our most appealing attributes.
Fourteen courses at City achieved over 90 per cent for overall satisfaction, with the BMus (Hons) Music degree ranking highest in the UK with a satisfaction rate of 100 per cent. The BSc (Hons) Psychology was ranked joint top with a 99 per cent rating while City's undergraduate degrees in International Politics ranked third in the country, also with a 99 per cent rating.
It is incredibly important that students make their views known and I am delighted by the continued increase in NSS response rates (to 72 per cent). The progress made by the University is very encouraging and together I know we can do more to improve further the student experience at City.
Giulio Folino, President of the Students' Union
Achieving our student recruitment goals
In 2013 the recruitment of undergraduate students continued to be influenced by external changes: most notably the impact of the increase in UK and EU fees and the division of the applicant pool into a fixed number with 'A' Levels below ABB (or the equivalent) and an unlimited number with ABB or higher. We have responded successfully to the creation of a more competitive marketplace by considerably enhancing our marketing and recruitment activities, including our very popular University Open Days and we offer some of the most generous merit-based cash scholarships in the sector. In 2013 we recruited slightly above our overall UK/EU targets and maintained the number of our students with ABB or higher. We also increased the number of international students. The official statistics show that our average entry qualifications continue to rise, with the latest published figures showing an increase to 394 points as the average (a grade A 'A' Level) is worth 120 points).
Support for learning and development
2013 saw the introduction of several initiatives designed to enhance our students' engagement with education. The creation of the Learning Enhancement and Development (LEaD) team means that we are now better able to support students by making clearer links between student support and curriculum development. The LEaD team also ensures a more focused service for staff in relation to educational development.
Under the stewardship of LEaD, an externally funded Change Academy project was launched in 2013 to recognise and establish new benchmarks for education excellence. Supported by the Higher Education Academy, this project involved a City team reviewing the award schemes run in Schools and through the Students' Union and collecting data from staff and students. The team also undertook literature and competitor reviews to develop criteria for a more transparent and equitable evaluation and awards process.
This initiative complemented the launch of the inaugural Vice-Chancellor's Education Excellence Awards, which recognise those who consistently demonstrate excellence in their approach to education and provide progression for winners of School-level and Student Voice commendations. Given to nine staff in its first year, the award includes criteria from previous evaluation processes and from the Change Academy project.
Run in conjunction with the Students' Union, the Student Voice award scheme began in 2009/10 and enables students to nominate a member of staff who has had an impact on their learning. A winner from each School and from Professional Services is selected by committee, with an 'overall winner' category introduced in 2012/13. Following the Change Academy project, new categories have been added in specific themes and these prestigious awards are now celebrated alongside our student programme representative awards at a special evening event.
Enriching the student experience
Progress towards our goal of achieving a more coherent and rewarding student experience was boosted in 2013 with the creation of Student and Academic Services. Compromising the Student Centre, the Deputy Academic Registrar's team, the University Admissions Office, the Programmes and Partnerships team and Academic Operations, the department aligns essential services and operations to support our students on their journeys from application to graduation.
A continuing commitment to enhancing the student experience was also in evidence as the Student Centre was re-accredited by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) for its high level of service provision. City is still the only university in the UK to have achieved the ServiceMark national quality standard, which recognises those organisations providing high levels of support, performance and professionalism.
The University's investment in new student facilities is taking shape in the form of CitySport, with construction of the new sports centre beginning in 2013. Scheduled to open in the autumn of 2014, CitySport boasts over 3,000m² of floor space and will provide outstanding facilities and equipment for students, staff and the local community.
Professor David Bolton