Napier doesn’t make the grade in nation-wide student experience survey

Catie Guitart

Napier University bottomed out in a UK-wide ranking of universities, according to a survey of students’ perception of their experience at university.

The survey, the second of its kind and commissioned by The Times Higher Education Supplement, placed Napier University at 93 out of 101 universities in a poll designed to showcase universities offering the top student experience.

Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, said: “While some cynics may be quick to dismiss the results as ‘just another league table’, what makes this survey stand apart is that students themselves determine the factors important in delivering a high-quality experience.”

The poll, performed by student market research company Opinionpanel, distinguishes itself in that students select the qualities most significant to their university experience. Overall, key concerns were the quality of staff and lectures and the helpfulness of staff, as well as social life, community atmosphere and campus environment.

This research jars with the findings of 2008’s Napier Student Satisfaction Survey, which claimed “the overall results [showed] that [students] were satisfied with [their] Napier experience”.

Raw survey data from the Napier survey has not been made available, with a press release on the Napier University website simply providing a short summary.

There is no mention of dissatisfaction with the Student Union, the category in which Napier scored the lowest in the Times survey.

This sentiment is echoed in Napier student interviews conducted by Veritas. Kirsty-Lee Kerr, 19, Publishing Media student, told Veritas: “I’ve been to the Student Union three times, and two of the times it was closed. The other time it was dead.  It’s hidden, it’s tiny and it’s blocked by a wall so no one can get to it easily.”

Napier University scored badly in the Times’ categories for cheap shop/bar/amenities, good sports facilities and good accommodation, its second lowest score.

Speaking to Veritas, Claire Charras, 22, Journalism student, said: “I can’t believe I had to paid £300 for student accommodation. I paid much less later on for a much better quality flat.”

Discontent with student accommodation received no reference in the Napier survey, with the only areas of improvement highlighted being the quality of its Merchiston campus, lack of computer facilities in Craiglockhart, and delays in receiving feedback on work.

Napier’s dismal ranking in the Times survey, seven from the bottom, stands in glaring contrast to other Edinburgh institutions’ positions, although all have slipped. Heriot-Watt was highest placed at 24, down from 11 in 2008. University of Edinburgh ranked at 43, a fall of 11 from 2008. 2008’s results only published the top 50 universities, within which Napier did not fall. Queen Margaret University and Edinburgh College of Art were not featured in the survey due to an insufficient number of respondents.

The highest scoring Scottish University, St. Andrews, attributed its success to its creation of a Student Experience Office and the launch of Student Experience Week. The week, overseen by Chris Lusk, director of student services, included a consultation of over 7,000 students and 12,000 alumni, special events celebrating the university’s diversity, and a grand finale celebration where students performed dance, fencing and musical presentation for their guests.

Heriot-Watt and the University of Edinburgh issued statements either reacting to or acknowledging the publication of the survey findings. Napier University has yet to comment on the research.

The Napier Students’ Association could not be reached for a response to the results, which paint a bleak picture of students’ estimation of the “Napier family”, as referred to by Professor Joan Stringer, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Napier, in a September 2008 welcome video.

Ashley Anderson, 23, a Journalism student, told Veritas: “I’ve heard people saying the drop-out rate is high. I think they need to do more to keep students involved. I know in first year when I didn’t go to many lectures, nothing was ever done about it. They seem to let you drift away… If you fall behind it’s so easy for you to go ‘Oh well, I’m just not going back’.”

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