Student satisfaction at Imperial is now at 84%, according to the most recent National Student Survey (NSS).
The results show that overall satisfaction levels have increased compared to last year’s survey result of 81%.
This year’s survey closed on 30 April 2021 and the response rate from final year undergraduates was 74%, a decrease of 1 percentage point on 2020, and an increase of 5 percentage points compared to the higher education sector as a whole.
The College is now ranked first among fellow London universities and at the top of the table of Russell Group institutions. The College also secured a ranking of 15 out of a total of 396 higher education providers covered by the survey, an improvement of 80 places on the previous year.
Reflecting on a challenging yet successful year
Imperial's Interim Vice-Provost (Education and Student Experience) Professor Emma McCoy said: "These strong results reflect our community’s efforts to protect the quality of the student experience this past year.
“Our students have faced huge upheaval. Teams across the College, including the Imperial College Students’ Union, have collaborated like never before to ensure we continue to offer academically rigorous and enjoyable teaching and a student experience we can all be rightly proud of.
"We've sent miniaturised lab experiments all around the world, we've recreated field trips in virtual settings, and we've carefully delivered innovative on-campus teaching when possible. This has been a groundbreaking period for our teaching and student experience.
“This year we have also offered an unprecedented level of support to students in a wide variety of areas. Hardship funds have been put to good use, mental health services have been expanded, our accommodation and catering teams have ensured self-isolating residents were comfortable, and assessments have been covered by ‘safety net’ policies to ensure learners have been treated fairly.
“Students have been at the heart of our decision-making...we need our entire community’s support to build upon these encouraging results and ensure Imperial is a university for everyone.” Professor Emma McCoy
“While our campuses have been under-utilised, we have also taken the opportunity to invest in infrastructure improvements which will have a real impact on the experience future students will receive. This has ranged from redeveloping social spaces such as common rooms, to building new teaching spaces fit for the digital age.
“Students have been at the heart of our decision-making. The pandemic is not over yet, but as we continue to emerge from the public health restrictions placed upon us, we need our entire community’s support to build upon these encouraging results and ensure Imperial is a university for everyone.”
Following the release of the results, Imperial's Provost, Professor Ian Walmsley, also commented: "This is testament to the extraordinary work undertaken by our entire community to support our students and to ensure their education and experience is of the highest calibre. The innovations that teams from all faculties have made are ones that will change our approach to teaching into the future and have a lasting impact on future students. The ways in which this has come about has also changed – involving students directly in shaping the changes has been critical to their successful implementation.
"I am immensely proud of how the Imperial community has responded to the challenges of the past year, building on the care that has gone into developing courses and technology in the recent past."
Bringing the experts together
To ensure a seamless, integrated approach to prioritising student wellbeing, the ‘student experience’ has been explicitly added to the Vice-Provost for Education’s remit this past year. Alongside this, a new role – Director of Academic Services – has been created to further integrate the full range of support services offered to students by the College.
In response to COVID-19, the College has also established the Student Experience Group, which is co-chaired by the Imperial College Union Deputy President (Welfare). This student representation is vitally important and has ensured students have been well-represented at one of the most challenging periods for the College community.
Investing in what matters to our students
Education: Alongside our well-documented efforts to deliver engaging and flexible learning this past academic year, the College's multi-year transformation of the taught curriculum continues, informed by students' needs and by the latest best practice in teaching.
Introduced this past year, I-Explore is a suite of for-degree-credit modules which are integrated into all undergraduate students’ programmes, but which sit outside their main discipline. These modules are assessed as pass/fail to ensure that students are willing to take risks and extend their knowledge into new areas.
The StudentShapers programme also continues to grow in popularity, and offers students the opportunity to undertake paid projects in partnership with staff to improve curricula, develop innovative teaching, and make positive changes to the student experience.
Spaces: COVID-19 has placed new expectations on students and staff, as well as on the physical spaces on campuses. The College was already underway with a multi-year investment in classrooms, laboratories and informal study spaces.
Investments in classrooms, laboratories and informal study spaces have totalled £7.32m this academic year. Developments over the past 12 months include the refurbishment of levels 4,5 and 6 of the old Chemistry building on the South Kensington campus and the Glenister lecture Theatre in Charing Cross. These new, modern teaching spaces provide more of what students have told the College is important including adaptability for different teaching and learning approaches as well as providing comfort and power for student devices. The redevelopment of Chemistry levels 4, 5 and 6 brings digital media space, social and community spaces and will have an eventual total capacity of 756 students.
Student Shapers have led the re-design of the two main foyer areas in Blackett with a new visual design with the creation of student social and study spaces. This has transformed an outdated and unused space into one that encourage students to spend time there rather than just pass through. The Business School’s new facilities in Scale Space allow for flexible whole room teaching or collaborative group learning and are fitted with the latest AV technology that facilitates in-person and virtual teaching.
Accommodation: During COVID-19, what it means to be a halls resident has been transformed. Self-isolation and new restrictions on how residents can socialise with each other mean that this past year has not been easy.
In response, Imperial was one of the first universities in the country to provide a fee waiver so that only those students that were using their halls rooms needed to pay. And for those students using their room, College catering and accommodation teams have introduced more support than ever. For self-isolating students, this has included a food delivery and laundry service, and a support system for those staying in halls over vacation periods. The Student Hub has also provided additional services to support students looking for private accommodation, including ‘find a flatmate’ coffee social events.
Support: COVID-19 continues to pose significant challenges for many students and the College's priority continues to be to offer targeted, high-quality support.
The pandemic means that many more of our support services, including Careers, Move Imperial, the Disability Advisory Service, Chaplaincy and Counselling, have been offering online provision for the first time.
The Faculties of Engineering and Natural Sciences successfully introduced Student Wellbeing Advisors, complementing similar services provided across the College’s faculties. This means students will always have someone to talk to should they need support.
And of course, student finances are an important part of mental and physical wellbeing, too. Worrying about this area of your life can cause additional strain during students' studies. In this pandemic year the College has expanded the scale of financial support on offer, including support for buying equipment students might need to study from home. A salary-sacrifice scheme by senior members of staff at the College has further bolstered hardship funds for those students that need it most.
We are also committed to providing an inclusive environment where acts of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct are not acceptable. We have rolled out the Report and Support tool as part of our actions to tackle these behaviours.
What comes next?
The College is ambitious about going further, and with strengthened relationships with the Imperial College Union and the wider student community, it plans to now move forward in deciding which temporary decisions made in response to COVID-19 should become permanent.
Inclusive community: The College has committed to several actions as part of joining the Race Equality Charter. This has involved creating a cross-departmental mentoring scheme for PhD students from ethnic minorities and increasing scholarship support for all students from under-represented groups, including £10 million for new scholarships announced as part of the President’s address.
It is also rolling out new projects aimed at addressing a lack of diversity in the art displayed on College campuses. This will be led by the Artworks Group, which was commissioned last year by the President and Provost to consider how Imperial can better reflect its staff, students and alumni through its art. This sits alongside the History Group, which is working to examine the history of the College and its legacy, with a focus on colonialism and Empire.
Strengthening student support: College support services will continue to adapt to ensure that provision meets student needs. There will be a key focus on addressing harassment and sexual misconduct wherever it is encountered. Plans are already underway to expand the Mental Health Advice, in part to respond to existing demand but also in anticipation of a rise in demand.
Virtual and physical space: The College is looking to the future and has a multi-year pipeline of projects ready to be delivered. This includes next-generation AV and the development of shared multi-disciplinary laboratories alongside a rolling programme of lecture theatre conversions. Student-led projects will continue to add invaluable insight, and students are invited to get involved in shaping how they want campuses to look in the future.
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