Late in September 2012 we received our National Student Survey (NSS) results: 98% overall satisfaction across the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, including a perfect 100% for our BSc Mathematics programme, putting us (obviously) first place for all G100 courses, and second place in the Mathematics and Statistics (JACS code 3) table. A number of factors will clearly influence student satisfaction, but one thing we have always prided ourselves on is providing a friendly and supportive environment, and on fostering a strong learning community. In the last couple of years we have enhanced this further, to start to embrace all that is good about the principle of student engagement. We feel this is likely to have had a positive effect on the NSS results, though that was never a reason for our actions.

For example, with a large School we were finding that the Staff Student Liaison Committee (SSLC) was developing a more formalised reporting structure, and being dominated by some particularly vocal groups of students, focusing on modular issues that had little or no overlap with the majority of our students who were there. So to amplify the student voice in our Department, we took the decision in 2010 to create smaller, informal, Part-specific Staff Student Forums (SSFs) alongside the SSLC, which effectively act as focus groups. They are deliberately kept small to give everyone the chance to have an equal say, and include us both in our senior Teaching & Learning roles. Students feel relaxed enough to say what they like, and we discuss the issues, annotating the minutes with any actions taken after the meeting, and the minutes then feed into the wider SSLC.

Going further with student engagement, in April/May 2011 we conducted two surveys, one of our Part 1 students [1], and one of our Part 2 students, specifically to seek their views on the structure of their programme, so that those views might inform changes that we were considering. As a result of their responses we have successfully restructured our Part 1 tutorial format this year along the lines of the most popular choice. We have also set up a Teaching & Learning seminar series within the Department this year, which we feel is a unique selling point for us, since it is open equally to staff and students to attend and to present on T&L issues (the format being a short talk followed by discussion amongst the audience). About half of the presenters are students, who have identified their own issues to talk about.

In summary, we feel that high student satisfaction scores will most naturally arise out of an environment where both staff and students feel satisfied with the curriculum and the structure of programmes, and where a friendly dialogue is maintained. We’re ultimately all in this together, and a partnership approach can only help take us forward.

[1]          Glaister, P., Glaister, E.M. and Ayres, K. L. (2012) Engagement ‘with’ or ‘by’ students: two sides of the same coin. MSOR Connections 12. URL:

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