Tag Archives: student satisfaction

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.