‘A landmark moment’: UCEM Principal, Ashley Wheaton, reacts to UCEM’s student satisfaction rate in the 2020 National Student Survey

Posted on: 15 July, 2020

The news that UCEM achieved an 83% overall student satisfaction rate in this year’s National Student Survey (NSS) is a landmark moment for the institution.

The result is UCEM’s best ever and should be a source of immense pride for our staff, students and everyone associated with the institution. I know I’m proud about it!

A score of 83% represents a 10% increase on last year’s score and is testament to the incredible amount of work which goes into ensuring our students’ learning experience is the very best it can be.


UCEM’s 83.44% satisfaction rate (rounded down for whole number reporting) put us 0.78% above the average for the sector.

That may not seem particularly impressive but when you consider that it puts UCEM – with a wholly online delivery for predominantly part-time students – on a par with the student satisfaction reported at plenty of face-to-face universities, it’s a fantastic achievement.

At a time when online learning has been criticised in the press, it’s great that the supported online education we have developed over several years is appreciated by our students to a level similar to traditional universities.

Action plan

Last year we were all very disappointed with the outcome, particularly as we had achieved 81% in 2018.

We felt the drop didn’t reflect the work which had gone into improving our student experience but the disappointment also challenged us to work even harder and to focus on detailed analysis of student feedback and act on it.

We read through the comments from last year’s survey and created an action plan for improvements to be made before this year’s survey which included:

  • assessment improvements to promote student success;
  • improvements to the consistency and quality of feedback, through increased support to markers and wide engagement with new assessment and feedback templates by module markers;
  • increased visibility of, and access to, academic staff and Support Tutors to students;
  • the introduction of a series of Focus Groups to better understand and make improvements to the student experience;
  • improvements to student communications around enhancements UCEM has made to enrich the student experience.

Increasing student participation

Part of the disappointment in last year’s result was that we knew the results weren’t entirely reflective of the cohort with a response rate of 65.7%.

The more responses received the better the data and not only was our satisfaction rate the best we have achieved, but our response rate also set a UCEM record of 71.4%.

Led by our Head of Marketing, Communications and Brand, Donna Rourke-Houguez, who took on the project at short notice and devised a brilliant plan, staff across the institution got the message out there leading to this excellent outcome.

Our Apprenticeship Outcomes Officers, Programme Leaders and student-facing teams all went out of their way to communicate the importance of taking the survey, and the effort exemplifies the passion of our staff.


So, what changed? In addition to the work carried out focusing on enhancing the student experience, the following improvements were made:

  • the Marketing and Student Outreach teams worked in collaboration to develop a student community site within UCEM’s website to promote the improvements we have made to support students;
  • additional drop-in sessions were implemented by Module Leaders to enhance opportunities to support students;
  • Programme Leaders and module delivery teams ensured that any queries and concerns were acted on in good time;
  • the Student Outreach and Core Services Teams enhanced the Student Hub area on the VLE to improve students’ access to a wide range of support services;
  • the Student Engagement Team made improvements to student-facing FAQs and have focussed on their effective listening skills to better support students.

What next?

Having achieved our highest score on a par with the sector, we want to improve on this and keep rising above the average score.

Supporting our students to succeed is what UCEM is here for and nothing is too small to change to realise this mission. Like last year, we will go through the comments and work on what we can improve, roll our sleeves up and carry out the identified enhancements.

Quite rightly, we should be very proud of this milestone achievement but the focus now will be on producing even higher student satisfaction rates and continuing to do all we can to ensure students succeed and enjoy their learning journey.