August is a tantalising month for universities as they eagerly await the results of the National Student Survey. Congratulations to Bath, this year’s top university – the OU was in the top place, and knows what it is like to receive such an accolade from students.
Bath has an overall student satisfaction of 94%, three other universities are at 93%, and in fifth place, at 92%, are The Open University and Cambridge. Heh, heh: we’re just ahead of Oxford on 91% – my old university. There are just a few percentage points in it, but enough to make a difference.
The OU is a four nations university, and we are again the top ranked university in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Congratulations to our Nation Directors and their teams. The Open University Student Association – OUSA- has achieved a magnificent 3% increase in its rating this year- a tribute to the leadership of their President, Marianne Cantieri, and her team.
Overall the entire sector should be proud just how much its students are keeping faith with universities, after unprecedented change. Our staff will not be complacent when they read these results, but will take some satisfaction in having managed tremendous change while maintaining very positive feedback from students. HEFCE’s detailed report (see link below) is invaluable currency: our scores for intellectually stimulating courses, assessment and feedback, are again outstanding.
My research expertise is in collaboration. I love it, champion it and strive to be collaborative. Collaboration and competition can go hand in hand. Competition sharpens performance. And it’s right universities should compete on quality – this must be good for students, for higher education and the economy. In his four years, our Vice-Chancellor, Martin Bean, has set an example for strategic and commercially-minded rigour, and this is seeing us through tough yet exciting times.
Our new team of Pro Vice-Chancellors, Musa Mihsein, Tim Blackman and Belinda Tynan, work closely, and want the OU to have even greater impact. What makes the OU so distinctive is its combination of teaching, research and pedagogy. So the link between academic aspects of our work and student support is critical. The three PVCs and Christina Lloyd, our Acting Director, Students, are supporting me in communicating our academic excellence and the quality of our students’ experience. We were apprehensive this time last year about student numbers, but all the evidence so far is that the OU has not only survived but is thriving, and ahead of target.
For nine consecutive years, consistently since HEFCE’s comprehensive survey began in 2005, the OU again proves that it is a top university, one exceptionally that is excellent at scale, with almost a quarter of a million students.
The number of respondents we had for survey – more than 26000- far exceeded any other higher education institution. Not only are we excellent at scale, we are inclusive. Most Communication Directors can have a hard job defending their organisations. I have one of the best jobs in the world, promoting one of the world’s most successful innovations, a global leader in distance education and open learning.