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The Student Priorities for Education report looks at the great work that our academic reps do locally in departments, working in partnership with staff.  It highlights the positive and negative trends that have been considered by academic reps in Student Staff Consultative Committee (SSCC) meetings across UCL. The report analyses feedback from over 370 SSCC meetings, our largest sample yet, helping to provide a picture of what students have enjoyed about their UCL education, as well as what they’d like to see improved. 

Many of these meetings took place before teaching was disrupted by Covid-19, however the report includes a preliminary breakdown of over 70 SSCC meetings between March and August 2020. This provides an initial snapshot into the issues raised in these meetings compared to when teaching operated in more normal times.

Students have highlighted the most positive and negative aspects of their time at UCL. The main positive areas that reps highlighted were:

  • Teaching Delivery: lecturers who were engaging and approachable, especially as teaching moved online.
  • Social & Community: students being given the opportunity to interact with fellow students within their department.
  • Skills Development and Employability: students being empowered to develop specific skills as part of their UCL education.
  • Student Voice: staff acting upon student issues raised within the SSCC system.

There was also an area that received particular praise after teaching was disrupted in March 2020 due to Covid-19:

  • Learning Resources: departments and staff continuing to provide effective teaching materials despite Covid-19 related disruption.

Students also highlight a number of areas where they would like to see improvements made:

  • Timing of Assessment: assessments being unevenly staggered and bunched too closely together, or when the timing of assessments was unclear.
  • Assessment Criteria: students not receiving clear information on how to do well in their assessments.
  • Promptness of Feedback: feedback not being received within the mandated one calendar month for summative work.
  • Teaching Rooms: issues of overcrowded teaching spaces whilst teaching was still on campus before March 2020.
  • Class Timetabling: clashes between core and optional modules with limited alternative options, and changes being made to timetables at short notice.

There were also two areas that received particular criticism after teaching was disrupted in March 2020 due to Covid-19:

  • Fees & Funding: students feeling that they are paying the same amount for a vastly reduced educational experience.
  • Communication: students not feeling informed about changes due to Covid-19, and initial communions being chaotic. 

We used all that you and your reps have said to produce a series of recommendations around these key themes. The recommendations focussed on the following areas: 

Recommendations (what we’re asking of UCL)

1. UCL Experience

It is clear from the report that many students have not had the UCL experience they expected. Feedback both before and after March 2020 shows that for many if not most students the 2019-20 academic year is full of missed opportunities a normal UCL experience would have provided. Whilst the move to online teaching was a necessary one, it is important to remember what an isolating experience this can be for students. We’re asking UCL to make sure that the student experience remains worth the time and money students invest in it, and that it ensures that missed or lost opportunities can be accounted for.

2. Assessment Preparation

Students reported issues with various elements of assessment, from the timing of this assessment to the promptness of feedback received. The issue of assessment is likely to become even more challenging in future years, given that many first and second year students, as well as future cohorts, will have less exam experience than previous cohorts due to cancellations because of Covid-19. We therefore believe it is necessary for UCL to take effective action now to improve the assessment landscape at the institution.

These recommendations for UCL sit alongside our priorities for the new Provost, which were shared with him in January.  

If you’re interested in finding out more about the analysis and recommendations, take a look at the full Student Priorities for Education Report