makes a happy student? The biggest ever survey at Leeds
is finding the answers
happiest student of all lives at home, drinks only moderately,
doesn't work to supplement their finances, has good friends,
is being taught well in a well-organised department, and
plans a career in the same field as their degree. In the
biggest systematic survey of student satisfaction and
well-being carried out in higher education, the University
has been finding out what its 21,000 undergraduates need
to stay happy.
university quality of life and learning (UNIQoLL) project
differs from the usual university satisfaction surveys.
Rather than asking students simply to rate their courses
or departments, it links student perception of their learning
experience and the support they receive with other major
student preoccupations – such as money, social life
and accommodation to provide an overall picture
of the student experience at Leeds.
so far vindicate Leeds' continuing popularity. All departments
score well on their teaching and academic support, and
most students consider the standard of educational provision
at the University to be high.
inspiration for UNIQoLL came from a small-scale survey
in the school of computing in 1998-9. After a larger pilot
the following year, the study was extended to every first-year
undergraduate in all University departments in 2000-2001.
Not the standard one-off, end of year questionnaire, UNIQoLL
is an on-going study with three surveys during the academic
year before registration and at the end of the
first and second semesters and tracking changes
as students progress through their degrees. Last year,
84% of students sent back at least one questionnaire.
is the age of student feedback, and in UNIQoLL we have
the most professional and systematic means of finding
out what students want," said Pro-Vice-Chancellor
for student affairs Dr Harry Lewis. "The challenge
now is to ensure results are taken on at a departmental,
and institutional level, to implement change where required,
and learn from best practice."
of the findings confirm generally held views about student
concerns though the details are sometimes surprising.
Around 20% of the respondents considered themselves as
having lowered levels of well-being at any one time, and
the percentage was marginally higher for men than for
women the majority cited social support networks
as a major factor in their well-being.
study has found that students do a weekly average of 14
hours paid work Monday to Friday, and around seven and
a half hours on a weekend in termtime and holidays.
Students say that this puts pressure on their studies,
and worries about money were one of the common factors
the family or parental home was rated the best place to
live, for studying, relaxation and to provide a good night's
sleep. While University halls rated higher for privacy,
living at home wasn't seen as detrimental to students'
terms of University accommodation, students rated houses
lower than flats, and halls came out consistently on top
for physical comfort, staff and security, and the environment
they provide for socialising.
findings were quite a surprise," said residential
and commercial services director David Irving. "Small
houses were thought to be popular with students for the
independence they offered, but UNIQoLL has shown us this
isn't their highest priority. We are now considering disposing
of our small houses, and creating larger accommodation
complexes, which in addition are easier for the University
academic provision, departments were rated on factors
such as students’ first impressions, guidance and
academic support provided, availability of staff, effectiveness
of teaching, benefit gained from lectures, access to computers
and the quality of support from departmental staff.
survey doesn't gather concrete facts in all these areas,
but how students perceive them," said UNIQoLL co-director
Professor Michael Barkham. "Collating all the information
across a department, and the University as a whole, provides
us with a better understanding of the student experience.
We can then see where things need changing, or whether
things need to be presented in a different way to improve
consistent factor in student well-being is social support
networks. Such networks are not all beyond the scope and
influence of the University, but can be provided through
groups and events within departments and residences.
student union also plays a major role in social provision.
LUU has been closely involved with UNIQoLL since it began,
with two representatives on the project's steering group.
co-ordinator Sarah Yandell has nothing but praise for
the study: "It's a brilliant project. It told us
students saw Nightline as support only for times of total
despair. We want them to use the service when they've
anything on their minds, from feeling lonely down to where
to get a late-night pizza. We're now changing our promotional
material as a result."
is run jointly by staff in psychology and computing and
managed by a steering group chaired by Dr Sally McGill,
and attended by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for student affairs.
Data is reported to the learning and teaching board, and
then fed onto departments via faculty learning and teaching
year, both first and second-years were included in the
survey and the next academic session will cover all three
years, bringing responses from the first cohort of students
(the 2000 intake) followed throughout their undergraduate
Barkham said. "The 2002-03 results will give us the
first overall picture of students' well-being throughout
their studies. We’ll then be able to relate that
to their final degrees, to discover which factors have
the greatest impact on academic performance. And we'll
also start to see how the information from UNIQoLL is
influencing policy and practice to improve the university
experience for all undergraduates."