Well, it’s been a pretty good day so far. I had a very interesting meeting in London this morning about something that will be out in open (geddit?) very soon but which I won’t blog about until the appropriate time. Instead I’ll just mention the news just out that the Department of Physics & Astronomy in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex finished in (joint ) 1st place in the 2013 National Student Survey (NSS). The full subject-level tables are not yet published – or at least I’ve been unable to find them – so I don’t know who we’re equal with, but I will update this post when I receive this information.
Looking through the detailed breakdown of the results, one figure leapt out at me. The fraction of Physics & Astronomy students at the University of Sussex who expressed overall satisfaction (in response to Question 22) was an amazing
Obviously it will be difficult to improve on this figure in future (!), but in fact we have already been planning to introduce a number of changes to our courses to boost our scores on other questions. That’s not to say that the result is due to one result: we also scored 100% on Q3 (“the staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching”), Q4 (“the course is intellectually stimulating”), Q15 (“the course is well-organized and is running smoothly”) and Q18 (“I have been able to access specialised equipment, facilities or rooms when I needed to”).
You can say what you like about the NSS, but it certainly keeps us on our toes. The tables generally show continued improvement in NSS scores across the sector, which I think demonstrates that all Higher Education Institutions do make the effort to respond to student feedback. That’s where the NSS has real value, as opposed to just being part of yet another league table. The survey also shows that in fact most UK Physics and Astronomy departments are extremely good and the differences between them are actually rather small. Maintaining our high ranking therefore won’t be easy, but we’re certainly going to give it a go for next year, and our influx of new staff will certainly help. Hopefully next year we’ll be out in front on our own again!
On behalf of everyone in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, I’d like to thank the students who participated in the NSS for this enthusiastic endorsement!