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College brings biggest smile to a student's face

STUDENT satisfaction is rising, according to the latest opinion survey. But careers guidance remains a key area for improvement.

The survey, carried out for the further and higher education funding councils by NFO Social Research, found that FE scored more highly than HE on different aspects of learning. While more than 90 per cent of students in both sectors said they were very satisfied or fairly satisfied with their learning experience, more FE than HE students reported being very satisfied (43 per cent against 30 per cent). This pattern repeats that of the previous survey in 2001.

FE colleges also benefit from having a higher proportion of older students since the survey shows that satisfaction increases with age. Half of those aged over 35 were very satisfied with their learning and wider student experiences, compared with 35 per cent of 25-34s and 32 per cent of 16-24s.

Interviews with more than 2,000 students found that satisfaction levels overall had increased from 89 per cent to 94 per cent over the two years.

Roger McClure, chief executive of the funding councils, described the findings as "very encouraging".

The single most important aspect of learning was the support they received from lecturers - 94 per cent placed it at the top of 10 factors. Four out of five students said they were satisfied with this aspect, with FE students likely to rate it more highly than HE students.

But job and careers guidance, said to be important by 85 per cent of students, was rated satisfactory by only 57 per cent, very little change on 2001. The report notes: "This suggests that there is still scope to improve the provision of services in this area in colleges and, in particular, in universities."

Two other factors, class sizes and access to computer facilities, also showed no significant differences.

By contrast, there was a major increase in the numbers who said colleges and universities gave them more help and support with financial and other personal issues - up from 49 per cent to 62 per cent. This varied from 70 per cent of FE students to 51 per cent of those in HE.

Fewer comments were made about staff in the latest survey, 5 per cent compared with 8 per cent in 2001. There was praise for staff support for students and their approachability; negative remarks related to the quality of teaching, lack of teaching hours and lack of one to one contact with lecturers.

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