Tag Archives: student experience

NSE results 2017

Scientia’s clients have a strong showing in the 2017 NSE

Student satisfaction continues to be high on the agenda for the HE sector globally. Our Dutch clients are rising to the challenge.

NSE logoThe results of the annual Dutch student survey – the Nationale Studente Enquête (NSE) – were released in May.  Almost 300,000 students answered 43 questions across 22 areas of their course programme.  This resulted in more than 1 million lines of data, rating everything from the content and organisation of teaching to preparation for a professional career.

It’s not hard to see why student satisfaction is so important in Higher Education. As fee-paying ‘customers’, students rightly expect an appropriate level of service. Greater retention and improved graduation rates reflect well on education institutions – in some countries, funding is dependent on it – and students who have had a good experience are likely to become advocates for their place of study, thus ensuring the next generation of applicants. Moreover, alumni at American HE institutions donated some $10 Billion in funding to their former colleges in 2015 – almost double the level of corporate support.

This is the seventh year that Scientia has analysed the results to see how our clients performed in the questions relating to timetabling and space management. Our raison d’être is to help academic institutions improve in these business-critical areas, so improvement is what we’re looking for.

With regards to timetabling, we are delighted to report that 38% of our Dutch Research University clients improved on their 2016 scores, with 31% charting the same as last year.  But our University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool) clients have done even better: 69% have improved on their 2016 timetabling scores.

In the questions relating to the availability of suitable work space, 85% of Scientia’s University clients did the same or better than in 2016; 67% of our Hogeschool clients achieved the same.

A special mention must go to our clients that beat the averages for their type of institution in each of the 7 categories relating to timetabling and space management. Tilburg University, University of Twente, Wageningen University & Research, Hanzehogeschool, Hogeschool Zeeland, Hotelschool Den Haag, Marnix College and Wittenborg University – take a bow!

Wittenborg University’s results are notable as they have achieved an outstanding result for timely notification of changes to the timetable – a direct result of implementing our Publish solution last year. This was also Wittenborg’s first year in the NSE; with scores comparable to many top-tier research universities, they’ve set the bar very high.

Many Dutch institutions will understandably use their NSE scores in their marketing, proudly proclaiming themselves to be the best at X, Y and Z. Being the best is great, but the first step on that journey is simply to be better. Our clients understand that and we’re proud to support them in that aim.

Customer Stories: Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth University logo

Organisation and management of courses is a key driver for student satisfaction. Aberystwyth transformed its fortunes in this area with a little help from us.

With just a few days left for UK students to complete the 2017 National Student Survey, we thought we’d look back on one of last year’s biggest success stories.

Abersytwyth University opened in 1872 with a cohort of 26 students and three teaching staff.  Today, it has more than 10,000 students studying across its six academic Institutes.  The main campus of the University is situated on Penglais Hill, overlooking the town of Aberystwyth and Cardigan Bay, and comprises most of the University buildings, Arts Centre, Students’ Union, and many of the student residences.  The University boasts a number of famous alumni, including HRH Charles, Prince of Wales.

The Challenge

Aberystwyth took in an unusually large intake of students in 2011.  This placed considerable pressure on the university’s existing timetabling processes.  As a result, the 2012 National Student Survey (NSS) highlighted shortcomings in Aberystwyth’s organisation and management of courses.  Data collection was inconsistent, leading to availability clashes.  Lectures were scheduled by a central timetabling office into a subset of large classrooms; smaller rooms were ‘owned’ and managed by departments, making them invisible to the central scheduling team.  Furthermore, classes were ‘rolled over’ from the previous year, meaning that a big room which had once housed a big class might be allocated to a far smaller group – and vice-versa. This had led to inefficient use of teaching space.

The Solution

In 2013, Aberystwyth commissioned Scientia to undertake a Business Process Review.  Our recommendations led to a complete restructure of its timetabling and space management processes, including:

  • Making more rooms centrally owned and therefore available to the central Timetabling team;
  • Refining data collection methods to reduce staff and room availability clashes;
  • Implementing the auto-scheduling capability of Syllabus+ Enterprise, meaning classes would be appropriately scheduled according to room capacity; and
  • Creating a personalised timetable for each student.

The Outcome

With teaching space now largely centrally-owned, formerly ‘hidden’ spaces devolved to Faculties are now visible to the central Timetabling Team.  Combined with the auto-scheduling functionality in Syllabus+ Enterprise, Aberystwyth has been able to optimise its use of rooms and resources, significantly improving utilisation rates.

“Thanks to these changes, we now have the most efficient timetable possible.”
Tim Davies, Director of Information Services at Aberystwyth

“We’ve undergone a complete change in concept and culture.  Before, we scheduled classes with very little information available to us, meaning that we spent a lot of time after the production of the timetable making changes – a very labour-intensive process.  We reduced the number of ways for staff to give us their availability information and made the format consistent.  Having that information at the start of the process means far fewer changes once the timetable’s been produced.  Autoscheduling with Enterprise means we are optimising the available space and providing the best possible timetable for our staff and students each year,” said Tim.

Combined with other efforts to improve the student experience, Aberystwyth has once again put itself back at the top of the tables, achieving 92% in the 2016 NSS – 4th in the UK and 1st in Wales for overall satisfaction.  This 9% year-on-year rise was the second-biggest improvement for a mainstream university in 2016.  Satisfaction with the organisation and management of courses has also made a marked improvement.

“Successful Timetabling has played an important part in improving the student experience.”
Jackie Sayce, Institute Manager at Aberystwyth

Building on recent successes, Aberystwyth has recently launched its ApAber app, enabling students and staff to access their personalised timetables on the web and from mobile devices.  Amongst other things, they can also access their AberLearn virtual learning environment, see what public computers are available, check their attendance record, and find out how much money they have on their AberCard.

Download this customer story here.

The Importance of Timetabling for Student Satisfaction

Scientia’s analysis of ten years of the UK National Student Survey uncovers four key areas that relate to the success of universities.

Scientia White Paper 2016As we close the door on 2016 and our clients and their students shut down for Christmas, a time of reflection begins.  In our case, this reflection looks back a bit further – ten years, in fact – as we aim to gain insight into the successes and failures of institutions through our analysis of UK National Student Survey data.

Our latest piece of research, a White Paper entitled Placing the Student at the Heart of Higher Education, sheds light on the importance of timetabling and resource scheduling in the fee-paying era.

Since the introduction of student fees in 1998, higher education has become an increasingly commercial entity. From 2017, some UK students will spend in excess of £9,000 a year on tuition fees. This makes it imperative for institutions to rank student satisfaction alongside academic excellence to ensure future success in both attracting and retaining their ‘customers’. Scientia’s analysis of ten years of the National Student Survey has uncovered four key findings that relate to the success of universities.

Satisfaction with organisation and management of university courses is improving

In line with the new challenges of the consumer-focused era, universities are seeking to improve their satisfaction scores by updating and improving their administration systems. In the past five years, university students who strongly agree that their course is well managed and organised has increased by five percent. Indeed, updates to administrative systems have also improved the number of students who agree their timetable is working effectively, with over 75% of respondents agreeing with this statement. In line with this, 78% of students agree and 40% strongly agree that changes to their course or teaching are communicated effectively.

The increasingly tech-focused lives students are living mean that they are more connected now than ever. Scientia’s solutions including Enterprise Foundation – its core timetabling suite – and Scientia Publish improve the student experience by keeping universities up to date with the latest technologies and systems.

Scientia’s clients come out on top in the National Student Survey

In the list of 22 institutions scoring a student satisfaction level of over 90%, 12 of Scientia’s clients featured. Students at these institutions reported an overall improved satisfaction level compared to their peers at universities that do not use Scientia’s solutions. Aberystwyth, for instance, charted the second biggest improvement this year, reaching the top 10 with an overall satisfaction score of 92%, up 9% on 2015.

Looking specifically at the Organisation and Management questions over 10 years, Scientia’s clients fill seven of the top 10 positions, showing just how important a successful timetabling and resource scheduling system is in improving the performance of higher education institutions.

To find out more about the success of our clients and solutions, please read our other blog, Institutions using Scientia’s solutions have a strong showing in the UK National Student Survey.

Organisation satisfaction varies across the country

With different organisational challenges that need to be overcome, the Organisation and Management results of institutions varied dramatically. Breaking the results down into regions, Northern Ireland came out on top with a satisfaction score of over 80%, whereas London brought up the rear with a score 7% lower. London’s challenges may be exacerbated as universities based in the capital tend to have split campuses, limited spare capacity for room scheduling as well as the fact that lecturers and students alike have to commute to and between the sites.

In the North West, universities are likewise split across the urban regions of Merseyside and Greater Manchester with similar complexities. At the other end of the spectrum, the East Midlands universities such as the University of Nottingham have sizeable campuses and good transport links.

Organisation satisfaction varies between subjects

Much to our surprise, History and Philosophy top the list of subjects that students “strongly agree” are well organised and managed, with Business and Engineering coming middle of the pack and Medicine bringing up the rear. With its complicated and varied schedules, Medicine will benefit most from a centralized timetabling approach. Scientia has been able to dramatically improve the organisation of complex schedules at the School of Health Sciences at City University, London, after the organisation adopted our centralised timetabling system.

Conclusion

In the student-as-consumer age, customer satisfaction counts. As has been demonstrated – and much to our expectation and satisfaction – Scientia’s solutions are at the forefront of delivering successful organisational and timetabling solutions to higher education institutions, improving our clients’ standings in the National Student Survey. Our student-focused solutions help our clients to deliver the best educational experience with the latest technologies to ensure future success.

Institutions using Scientia’s solutions have a strong showing in the UK National Student Survey

UK student satisfaction at an all-time high

It’s that time of year again in the UK when students’ views about their institutions are published, analysed, and pored-over. On Wednesday, the results of the National Student Satisfaction Survey were released. Since its inception 11 years ago, over 2.5 million final-year undergraduates have taken part in the survey, organised by HEFCE, which consists of 23 questions spread across categories including teaching, assessment, academic support and – of particular interest to us – organisation and management, including the quality of the timetable and notification of changes. Here’s a nice infographic from the HEFCE website which shows its reach and engagement:UK Student Satisfaction Survey 2016

First things first: well done to all the participating institutions;  86% of the 300,000+ students who responded said that they were satisfied with their course, the same as the all-time high recorded in the 2014 and 2015 results. How to interpret this stellar result in the £9k-a-year fee era? It’s likely that universities realise they must work extra-hard to make the cost of an undergraduate degree seem worthwhile. In the student-as-consumer age, customer satisfaction counts.

But the real question on our mind was this: how did the institutions using our timetabling and resource-management solutions fare? A quick glance at the top 20 on the THE website revealed that no fewer than eight (40%) of our clients feature. Better still, The University of Law takes joint first place with a whopping 97% satisfaction score. Clients Keele and St Andrews share joint fourth place with 94%, and Aberystwyth squeaks into the top 10 with an admirable score of 92%, up no less than 9 points on their 2015 score – the second-biggest improvement of any institution this year.

Further down the table, Exeter, Lancaster, Dundee and Bath all put in a strong performance at 90% satisfaction or above. All in all, a fantastic result for some of our clients. But how much of their success can we attribute to the organisation and management of the courses – something our solutions directly influence?

The importance of the timetable in student satisfaction

The organisation and management section consists of three statements:

  • The timetable works efficiently as far as my activities are concerned
  • Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively
  • The course is well organised and running smoothly

We analysed the results from ten years of data and found some very interesting insights. We’re thrilled to report that Scientia’s clients filled seven of the top ten slots (70%) relating to organisation and management, and that the students attending institutions where our scheduling software is used report an overall improved satisfaction level compared to their peers.

Scientia-Top10-Satisfied with organisation and management_70%

Going deeper, if we analyse the results regionally we see a large difference. Northern Ireland’s institutions lead the way with their organisation and management results, whereas the London institutions have the worst showing. That’s important data for us, and something to address with existing and future clients.

UK Student Satisfaction Survey 2016

We are delighted to see continued improvement in universities’ organisation and management over the past ten years. As the chart below shows, 2016 is the best-ever for satisfaction.

UK Student Satisfaction Survey 2016

Student satisfaction: its worth more than you think

Like it or not, tertiary education is becoming increasingly commodified.  Tuition fees have become more common as the higher education sector has grown in size and the funding required to sustain it has increased.  Some governments have decided that charging tuition fees is the only way to ease the financial pressure on the treasury (and to support students from less affluent backgrounds).  Advocates of tuition fees state this as a positive development: students buy a stake in their education and are accorded ’consumer’ status, with all the rights that brings.  Opponents have been fighting the commodification of education for years, with a recent study suggesting that students who see themselves as consumers, rather than learners, get lower grades.

Whatever your opinion, one thing’s for sure: with the average annual cost to the student reaching as much as £27,000, it’s no wonder that students’ expectations of their institutions are rising.  As an education provider, how do you know if you’re succeeding in meeting your students’ needs and giving them good value for money?  You ask them!  Or rather, the national independent funding body for higher education asks them.

SK123_RGB_LOGO_OCWIn the Netherlands, that body is Studiekeuze123 – a collaboration of the Ministry of Education, students and higher education institutions.  Its stated aim is to offer “independent, comprehensive and reliable information about all accredited programs at colleges and universities in [the] Netherlands.”  Its website – www.studiekeuze123.nl – is a one-stop shop for prospective students, helping them to select the right institution based on a huge amount of information – much of it collected from existing students via its annual survey, the Nationale Studente Enquête (NSE).  The NSE is a wide-ranging survey on the various aspects of the tertiary learning experience: the programme’s curriculum, acquired skills, career preparation, lecturers, information provided by the programme, study facilities, assessment, study workload, student guidance and, of course, timetables.

Hogeschool Zeeland
Hogeschool Zeeland, a Scientia client, is among the best in the Netherlands for the sixth year running

For the prospective student, there are few more credible sources of information than the lived experiences of existing students.  Performing well in the NSE has become central to a Dutch university’s appeal, with many using its outcomes as part of their marketing strategy – comparing themselves favourably with their academic rivals or boasting about improvements on the previous year’s scores.  Most importantly, the NSE is a key feedback tool for Dutch universities, enabling them to improve the academic experience for their current and future students.  And giving students the best experience possible is certainly in their interest: research shows that student satisfaction affects the entire student lifecycle, from retention to alumni giving.

Helping institutions to achieve their strategic goals is one of Scientia’s stated aims.  Two of the NSE questions are specifically about timetabling, and two about space management:

  • Is your timetable published on time?
  • Are timetable changes published on time?
  • Is there suitable study space?
  • Is there available work space?

So we had cause to celebrate when we analysed the NSE results this year:

  • on average, Dutch institutions which use our timetabling and resource management solutions equal or beat the national average in the categories related to timetabling and space management.
  • In the case of the Universities we support (as opposed to Hogeschools), they beat the averages significantly – by around half a point in most categories.
  • More compelling still is the difference between the average ‘non-Scientia’ institutions and those using our solutions: almost a full point in most cases, particularly on questions around timetabling.
Timetable published on time Timetable changes published on time Suitable study space Available work space
National Avarage 2.8 2.5 2.9 2.5
Scientia Uni Average 3.3 3.0 3.4 2.8
Scientia Hogeschools Average 2.8 2.6 3.0 2.6
Non Scientia 2.5 2.2 2.6 2.8

The take-home point here is simple: students at Dutch institutions which use our Enterprise Foundation timetabling suite are happier with their timetables than those which don’t.  Furthermore, those institutions are more able to make the right kind of study space available to their students.  This is the bit where we sit back and rest on our laurels, right?  Wrong.  We can do better.  You can do better.

We have a range of student-focussed solutions which could help you to better serve your future alumni (you know, the ones who in the US give almost $11bn a year to their former colleges): if you’re already using Enterprise Foundation for your timetabling, Publish enables you to send personalised timetables direct to your students’ phone, tablet or PC; Student Allocator empowers students to make choices of activities, modules and tutorials for themselves through any web browser; and you don’t even need to have Enterprise Foundation to implement our Resource Booker solution, which enables students and staff to make and manage their own room and resource bookings…

Congratulations to our Dutch clients for an outstanding performance in this year’s NSE.  Here’s to continuous improvement, no matter where you fall in the rankings.

Enhancing Institutional Services to Improve Student Experience

Institutions are under growing pressure to deliver an interactive and engaging university experience. In today’s challenging academic climate, it’s important for students to have an increasing amount of choice that allows them to select modules and activities according to individual preferences, ultimately resulting in greater student retention and academic success.

How can institutions implement change without impacting on overheads and resource?

Student Allocator is an online web portal that improves institutional services and increases satisfaction with a self-service approach to administration. The software allows students to make suitable choices according to their schedule, with the option to select modules, tutorials and other activities based around their other commitments such as part-time work or childcare.

Academic and administrative staff can also benefit from the flexibility of Student Allocator by creating and reviewing programme structures and restrictions. It allows them to manage aspects such as class size or conflicting student demands in a controlled way.

When linked to Syllabus Plus Enterprise Foundation, Student Allocator can also maintain a clash-free timetable and facilitate improved attendance monitoring and retention rates; tracking student swaps between tutorial and seminar groups and the accuracy of class lists. By identifying issues early on, staff can intervene and prevent drop outs.

In this video, David Duffett explains how Student Allocator improves institutional services and satisfaction for both staff and students.