UK Higher Education

WUSCA 2019 full analysis: student reviews reveal Wales has happiest students & Greater London unhappiest students in UK

This year’s WUSCA results show Overall Student Satisfaction has increased, thereby bucking the trend of the July 2018 NSS results. Welsh universities continue to do well for the third year running whilst London Universities perform poorly.

With over 41,000 student reviews collected across 160 UK institutions covering 15 different categories, including Uni Facilities, Course & Lecturers, City Life, Accommodation and Students’ Union, we take a deep dive into the data to pick out some of the key findings.

Welsh Universities Perform Better than those in England and Scotland

For the third year in a row, Welsh institutions have outperformed their Scottish and English counterparts across the majority of Whatuni Student Choice Awards (WUSCA) categories. Welsh universities also took the lead for overall student satisfaction levels under the University of the Year category with a 2.1% year-on-year increase.

Wales’ upward trend culminated in Swansea University taking first prize for the University of the Year category at the sixth annual Whatuni Student Choice Awards (WUSCA). Swansea also claimed first place under the International category and placed top three for the Course & Lecturers and Postgraduate categories.

On a less positive note, the reviews revealed that out of 12 regions in the UK, Greater London has the least satisfied student with an average score of 3.9 out of 5 (albeit a small increase from 2018 when it was 3.87). This mirrors that of the NSS where London universities tend to perform poorly. In fact, half of the institutions in the bottom 10 for Overall Satisfaction category (University of the Year) are London-based institutions.

The only category in which Greater London outperformed other regions was for City Life, scoring 4.14 out of 5. The lower scores attributed to London-based universities in the WUSCA reviews mirror that of the NSS where London universities tend to perform poorly.

Overall, 8 out of 12 UK regions have seen happier, more satisfied students this year compared to 4 out of 12 last year (year-on-year). High performing regions included Northern Ireland taking the lead for Accommodation with 4.03 out of 5, Wales for Course & Lecturers (4.13), Yorkshire and Humberside for Uni Facilities (4.27) and Central England for graduate Job Prospects (4.4).

Overall student satisfaction increases across the UK

Students in the UK are happier with their studying experiences this year compared to previous years.

Of all the categories, the Overall Satisfaction category (University of the Year) had the highest average score, which increased from 4.01 out of 5 (2018) to 4.04 (2019). Whilst it’s not quite at the average satisfaction level of 2017 (4.07), it’s a step in the right direction for the higher education sector.

Looking at 124 institutions that participated in both WUSCA 2018 and 2019, 69 of these saw increases in their Overall Satisfaction rates, while 55 had decreased levels of satisfaction.

Average scores across all other categories with the same number of participating institutions as last year have increased with the exception of Clubs & Societies, which dropped by 2.00%.

For the second year in a row, Uni Facilities had the second highest average overall score, suggesting that the huge investment in buildings and facilities across the sector is impacting on student perceptions.

The other categories with the biggest year-on-year increases in satisfaction were Student Support (1.95%) and Accommodation (up 1.89%). The Job Prospects category also had increasing satisfaction levels over the last 3 years, averaging this year with 3.99.

Those performing well in the Accommodation category tend to be those that can easily be classified as campus-based institutions, whilst four of the worst performing institutions are Scotland based, suggesting that there may be some work to be done north of the border.

The categories that impressed least were Students’ Union (3.71) and Clubs & Societies (3.71).

The International category, which accounts for the overall satisfaction of international students, saw a slight decrease from 4.17 in 2018 to 4.12 in 2019. However, in 2018 only 23 institutions reached the threshold of submitted reviews required to participate, while this year 55 were included.

Submission-based categories

Two categories – Giving Back and Prospective Student Engagement – were submitted for consideration by institutions themselves. Both were judged by the Whatuni Student Advisory Board. For the Giving Back category, the board felt that strong submissions had clear, focused and measurable objectives. They also valued initiatives that actively engaged a large number of students.

For the Prospective Student Engagement category, the board remarked that initiatives that accurately reflected the student experience were most successful. They emphasised the importance of customising marketing initiatives to different target markets and valued campaigns that focused on student aspirations and dreams.

How categories impact overall student satisfaction

This year, for the first time, we have looked in detail at the correlations (or otherwise) between different WUSCA categories, asking the question: which categories give the best indication of overall student satisfaction (University of the Year)? This is important as it begins to unpack which aspects of the university experience students place the most importance on or have the biggest impact on their experience.

Institutions may, on the other hand, wish to look at this analysis in a slightly different way …  As an institution, which categories do you need to perform well in to increase your chances of winning University of the Year?

Looking at the graphs below, the more diagonal the line, the stronger the correlation between the chosen category and the University of the Year. The flatter and more horizontal the line, the less correlation.

The data from this year’s reviews shows that the Course & Lecturers category has a particularly strong bearing on a student’s overall university experience. Other categories that have a consistently big impact on overall satisfaction levels include Job Prospects, Student Support and Uni Facilities.

There is a certain amount of reassurance in these findings, showing that it is the academic aspects of university life that have the most significant impact. Delving a little deeper and looking at the correlation between the Student Support category and Course & Lecturers, we can again see a particularly strong relationship spanning across multiple years. This correlation is important as it implies that either universities with positive reviews for courses and lecturers also have good student support or that support is actually given by or linked to the courses and lecturers.

The Students’ Union category, on the other hand, has a far weaker relationship with Student Support. This may suggest an opportunity for Students’ Unions to better support their students or that institutions should ensure lecturers have the training needed to support their students as effectively as possible.

Conversely (and somewhat surprisingly), the City Life category – which references all types of locations in which institutions are situated – has little bearing on how students perceive their overall university experience (as seen with institutions from the Greater London region).  We’ve seen this trend in previous years too, which suggest that students value other factors more highly. This can be viewed as a positive for recruiters and marketers who would struggle to redefine the location of their university.

We have this year also produced a number of interactive dashboards and graphs that allow institutions to integrate their data, look for their own correlations and map their performance against their competitors or against different mission groups or geographical locations. Find out more here.

We welcome feedback or requests for further analysis. Below are interactive graphs of WUSCA results.

Whatuni Choice Awards 2019 Results:

University of the Year
1st Swansea University
2nd Aberystwyth University
3rd Loughborough University

1st Loughborough University
2nd Edge Hill University
3rd Bangor University

City Life
1st University of Edinburgh
2nd Northumbria University, Newcastle
3rd University of Bristol

Clubs & Societies
1st Bangor University
2nd Loughborough University
3rd University of Exeter

Course & Lecturers
1st University of Wales Trinity Saint David
2nd Harper Adams University
3rd Swansea University

FE College
1st DN Colleges Group
2nd Blackpool and the Fylde College
3rd Solihull College & University Centre

Independent HE
1st Norland College
2nd Point Blank Music School
3rd dBs Music

1st Swansea University
2nd Aberystwyth University
3rd Bangor University

Job Prospects
1st Harper Adams University
2nd Hartpury University
3rd Loughborough University

1st Aberystwyth University
2nd Swansea University
3rd Loughborough University

Student Support
1st Harper Adams University
2nd Leeds Arts University
3rd Bishop Grosseteste University

Students’ Union
1st University of Sheffield
2nd Loughborough University
3rd Cardiff University

Uni Facilities
1st Leeds Arts University
2nd Loughborough University
3rd Edge Hill University

Prospective Student Engagement
1st Goldsmiths, University of London
2nd Southampton Solent University
3rd University of Gloucestershire

Giving Back
1st Birkbeck, University of London
2nd Newcastle University
3rd Cardiff University

For more information and editor’s notes, view our WUSCA 2019 press release.































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