Students are even more satisfied with their university course than last year. The National Student Survey, which quizzed 265,000 final year students at more than 250 universities and further education colleges, found that 83 per cent of students are satisfied with their courses, up from 82 per cent in 2010. In each of the seven categories covered by the survey, satisfaction had either improved or stayed the same.
Students in Scotland, which has been spared university fees, are most content with 86% of students saying they were satisfied. Eighty-four per cent of students were satisfied with the quality of teaching on their courses and 77 per cent were satisfied with the academic support they received, which was encouraging, as university staff rarely get the recognition they deserve for all the pastoral work they do.
Although some reports focused on the one-tenth that were dissatisfied (eight per cent were neither satisfied or dissatisfied), it's fair to say that most students would be happy with a mark of 83% and companies with satisfaction rates of over 80% would be keen to promote how well they were doing.
Some commentators have correctly predicted that the issue of student satisfaction will become more interesting in the next couple of years. From 2012, universities will be able to charge up to £9,000 a year tuition fee - which is almost three times the current levels.
In the back of a lot of people's minds will be the idea that if you triple the price of something, the quality needs to improve dramatically. We must be clear that universities will not actually be making more money out of the higher fees - they are simply charging more to replace the money the government has removed through punitive budget cuts.
The real worry is that cuts to the higher education budget and subsequent higher fees will leave staff with even more demanding workloads as students and their families start to expect more bang for the extra bucks they are being forced to shell out for a university education.
The nature of the cuts means that universities will not suddenly have three times the resources to plough into improving the student experience. Nevertheless, there will be pressure on universities and staff to deliver more, which is perhaps asking a lot considering university staff have received real-terms pay cuts over the past few years and attacks to their pensions.
The government needs to be very careful what it wishes for when it talks of giving more power to the consumer/student. While the levels of satisfaction with what is currently on offer may not go down, it is highly likely that expectations will increase and be very difficult to meet.
While it is encouraging that the vast majority of students are satisfied with their course at present the government could be storing up serious problems in the future if it really expects the university sector to deliver even more for less. If satisfaction rates are to remain high then universities and staff must be given the resources they need to deliver the quality of education students will expect.
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