UK Higher Education

The Power of Reviews: What Students Want

On the 19th April, Whatuni will be celebrating the best in education at the annual Whatuni Student Choice Awards (WUSCA). What makes this ceremony truly unique is that the only judges are the students themselves, so if an institution wins an award, it’s because their students say they’re the best. But what does a winning institute look like? Nobody knows the answer to this question better than the Whatuni field executive team, who have travelled thousands of miles over the past six months, collected over 34,000 reviews and spoken to many students face-to-face across the UK.

The field executives.

One of Whatuni’s junior field executives, Dan Jones explains, “No university is the same, but the wants and needs of the students often are. I feel as though you can sense if a student community is strong or not from their willingness to engage and talk to us about their uni experience.”

Dan Jones from the field team.

What Do Students Want?

One of the themes the team regularly hears from student reviewers is how much they value time with their lecturers. As well as having teachers who are knowledgeable and passionate, many reviewers say they want approachable lecturers who are good communicators too. Matt Kohler, also a junior field marketing executive, believes this is because, “students are readily aware of how much they are paying and are keen to make the most of things in terms of contact hours, in particular seminar work and feedback for assignments.”

Students also regularly told the team how important facilities were to them. From simple things like water fountains and clean toilets, to needing more studying facilities around campus, our reviewers are very vocal about what they need to do their work effectively. Dan adds, “By far one of the most important things talked about is the space in which students can work and complete their assignments. Coupled with a lack of necessary facilities for a particular building or course.” Other common things students told our team were important to them included having societies that catered for everyone, accommodation that was of a good standard and a well-stocked library.

What Do WUSCA Winners Look Like?

Based on this feedback, it’s no surprise that the previous winner of University of the Year for the last two WUSCAs, Harper Adams University, has also previously won the Course and Lecturers category and placed 3rd for Facilities. Student comments about Harper Adams last year included:

  • “The course is interesting, lecturers are passionate and knowledgeable”
  • “Course covers a broad range of the sector with diverse knowledge and lecturers are extremely enthusiastic about their topics.”
  • “Good level of development is occurring on site to keep facilities up to date ensuring our education is kept current”.

So, what do the current field executive team think the university of the year looks like? Based on their conversations with university students, they say…

  • Dan: “One where students are encouraged to break out of their shells and try something they might otherwise have never done. Many universities I’ve visited often provide opportunities both professionally and recreationally to students and it’s fantastic.”
  • Matt: “The university of the year is one that listens to its students and responds to them –often this means support systems and in particular ease of communication between students, lecturers, subject departments, and university-wide administration.”
  • Obaro Alordiah: “A University of the Year offers support when needed and caters to everyone’s needs. It also has good facilities for both studying and socialising.”
  • Rania Khuffash: “A university that actually knows its students.”
  • Ben Manson: “Engaging, creative and varied course content.”

Field executives, Matt & Lizzie.

How Can Institutions Use Review Feedback?

Hearing this feedback isn’t just interesting for the Whatuni team, but can also be incredibly useful and insightful for institutions too. As Ellie Back, Marketing Manager at Hotcourses Group explains, “The Whatuni reviews represent an enormous sample of student opinion, which offers incredibly valuable feedback to universities on what’s working and what’s not. “What’s really interesting is when the same small problem is mentioned by a large number of students. Something like how comfortable the chairs in lecture theatres are doesn’t seem like a deal breaker, but seeing the same comment in hundreds of reviews makes it obvious how a small tweak could improve the experience across a student population.”

Having student reviews can drive traffic to your profile pages on Whatuni too. In fact, university review pages accounted for 10% of overall page views on Whatuni last year, so students are not only reading the comments, they’re actively searching for them. By doing something as simple as reading your student’s feedback, and engaging your students to give feedback in the first place, you not only get an honest account of what your institution is excelling at, and what needs a little more time and attention, but you’ll also engage prospective students.

Find out more about the Whatuni Student Choice Awards, or to read the reviews from your students, head to your profile page on Whatuni.
To book a review collection for next year’s awards, contact your account manager or email Jade.Whittaker@hotcourses.com

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