One of the key elements I look for when identifying a student experience success story is a rapid increase in NSS scores from one year to the next. Bangor University School of Law is a fantastic example of this, with 21 of their NSS question results increasing from 2012 to 2013, and 6 increasing by more than 15%.
Having been in contact with Yvonne McDermott – Director of Teaching and Learning and Deputy Director, it is evident that their success in student satisfaction is the result of several initiatives focused on improving the student experience while studying within the school.
One of their key initiatives for 2012/13 was the introduction of a new essay cover, which allows staff to provide more detailed feedback to students. In addition to this new and improved cover, the School of Law was able to ensure that 98% of all feedback was returned to students within 4 weeks, aiming for 100% for this (13/14) academic year.
Ensuring that students receive more detailed feedback, and also receiving this feedback within the intended time frame, was clearly seen as a significant improvement by students with Q06 and Q07 satisfaction scores increasing by 18% and 19% respectively.
Another recent improvement has been the doubling of staff office hours, to a minimum of 4 hours per week. Not being able to meet a member of staff can often be very stressful for a student. Increasing staff availability and communicating staff office hours effectively helps give students the confidence that if they need help or guidance, they know where and when to contact staff and that staff have time to help.
This change appears to have been very well received by students and is likely to be a major reason for the 19% increase in satisfaction with Q11 from 74% in 2012 to 93% in 2013.
Greater opportunities for students and staff involvement
Q19 is a difficult subject to improve, student confidence often requires more than a change in procedure or policy. Bangor University, School of Law’s increased engagement with its students, combined with initiatives focused on providing opportunities and informational support for its students, however, appears to have had the desired positive effect.
Some of these initiatives include an employability committee focused on providing their students with the best employment opportunities with companies such as Hill Dickinson and Hugh James offering student placements. The internship webpage provides student case studies for students to relate to, helping to build trust and confidence in the initiative.
Increasing staff interaction and engagement outside of the typical teaching week was another aspect that the School instilled. Staff train and act as judges for contested student competitions, as well as taking students on trips to destinations such as the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Strasbourg and Brussels, among others. Creating these extra opportunities and ensuring that staff are engaged with students throughout their university life is certainly something that has helped students feel secure in their environment.
Another aspect that has probably been a significant factor in improving overall satisfaction is the scholarship system. This scheme offers students the opportunity to apply for financial aid to help cover costs associated with work experience. The scheme measures expected expenses, the student’s financial situation and the expected value of work experience to ensure that students most in need receive funding. This helps ensure that work experience opportunities are a possibility for all students and certainly a significant factor in helping to improve the overall student experience.
Student experience success
Student engagement and improved student support are key themes in all School of Law initiatives. This underlines how successful initiatives can be, as long as they are focused on the needs of the students.
Each initiative had a measurable, positive impact on the student experience, resulting in much better NSS scores, indicating that students recognized and appreciated their efforts.
I will continue to publish more articles on student experience success, each examining different initiatives and ideas that have helped improve the student experience. These are meant to be useful and interesting articles that will spark further conversations about the initiatives raised, so feel free to open further discussions using the comments field at the bottom of each article.