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UCU response to National Student Survey

15 July 2020

UCU said continued satisfaction with courses and teaching demonstrated the incredible work of staff, particularly in such a challenging year.

The survey found that the majority of students remain satisfied with their course. Overall 83% said they were satisfied with their course, compared to 84% in 2019. Around one in five (21%) of the 311,432 students who responded to the survey did so after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on 11 March.

This academic year also saw up to 22 days of strike action by UCU members at 74 universities in disputes over pensions and pay & conditions. A report from the Higher Education Policy Institute last month suggested that students' support for staff may be because the strikes brought into focus the plight of university staff*.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'While the National Student Survey has many flaws, the findings do indicate that the unprecedented events of the last academic year have not shaken students' appreciation for the work staff do.

'Staff have reacted magnificently to the many challenges they have faced in recent months and universities need to be supporting them, not sacking them. Worryingly, we are hearing more and more reports of universities getting rid of casual teaching staff - the very people driving the high levels of satisfaction from students.  

'The staff who have continued to rise to recent challenges need full support from universities and from government. Universities need to provide job security for their staff to ensure they are ready to go next year and the government must step in with funding to protect universities from the impact of Covid-19 on lost income from international students.'

* "Comparing 2019 to 2020, there are some noteworthy differences in priority. Although the overall ranking has changed little, all the staff measures (teaching staff, research staff, management staff) have increased significantly. The early part of 2020 has been a year when university staff have been in the spotlight during a period of significant industrial action, and we may speculate here that although students have felt the impact in terms of contact hours lost, the action may also have made students more aware of the role of staff across institutions."

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