Pair of undergraduate students socialising in the Westfield Centre, Derby city centre

October 2, 2015, by Ryan Neal

What do our students want?

Last November we told you all about Student Engagement within Project Transform. It is vital to us that we take on board students’ feedback about their University experience in order to ensure that our systems and processes reflect what our students want. This was of particular importance during our work surrounding Organisation Design and one of the methods we used to gather data about students’ views was to collaborate with the Students’ Union on their ‘How Did We Do?’ survey.

The survey consisted of two questions relating to Organisation Design, and we received 1,100 responses, with data being 95% representative of the student population. Assumptions are accurate to +/- 3%. The two questions, along with a breakdown of responses, can be found below. In these questions, students were given a number of statements and asked to rank them in order of importance.

Question 1: Think about a time when you might need to apply for extenuating circumstances or have a general enquiry about your course. The following statements will describe some factors in the completion of that process – please rank them in order of importance for you. (1 = most important, 7 = least important) Number of respondents who selected this option as priority 1
1 That the query is dealt with efficiently and the process is easy to understand and complete 551
2 That I speak directly to my Personal Tutor or other academic member of staff 199
3 That the person who deals with my query has excellent customer service skills 85
4 That I have the choice to do this online 144
5 That the office is located conveniently for me 27
6 That I recognise/know the person at the office that I go to 59
7 That I have the choice to do this over the telephone 29
Question 2: If you were to physically go to an office to apply for extenuating circumstances or make a general enquiry about your course, which of the below options would be most convenient to you? Number of respondents who selected this option as priority 1
1 In the same building as my school/department 679
2 Close to the lecture theatres, seminar rooms or laboratories in which some of my teaching takes place 126
3 Anywhere on my home campus clearly visible and signposted 225
4 Close to a library I use frequently 38
5 Close to a catering outlet that I use frequently 27

After completing question 1, respondents were invited to leave a free text comment to explain the thought behind their ranking. 914 of the respondents did so:

• 443 comments related to a need for efficiency
• 88 comments expressed a desire for Personal Tutors to be accessible
• 65 comments explicitly expressed support for an online system

Since the questions above make reference to extenuating circumstances, a control question (‘Have you ever applied for extenuating circumstances?’) was asked. 28% of respondents had applied for extenuating circumstances, but this did not affect the order of preference to either question. There was also no significant difference between undergraduate and postgraduate students.

From the above responses two key conclusions can be drawn:

• Most importantly, query management should follow an efficient and straight-forward process
• If a student were to visit an office, the primary importance in its location would be its proximity to their School/Department

These conclusions were used to inform the new organisation design model. In the new model, many of the core queries and processes can be dealt with online. However, there will also be a number of service centres that can deal with general enquiries, and these will be spread across each of the campuses in order to satisfy students’ wishes for a conveniently located service. Local, specified knowledge will remain in Schools so that students still have access to a local point of contact who can provide them with assistance to their queries. By following a set of standard processes across the University, students will be able to have their query dealt with efficiently, and will receive the same standard of service in any location.

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