King’s College London saw a 2.9% drop in student satisfaction, according to the National Student Survey published last month.
The survey comprises responses by final year students and is published annually. Overall, student satisfaction decreased from 80.4% to 77.5% this year, bringing the reputable university 5.2% below the average score in the sector. But what might the reason behind this change be? We decided to investigate further and ask students across all years about their experiences, in the belief that student satisfaction can’t be described in numbers alone.
On the bright side, first-year students tended to be happy with their experiences at King’s thus far. Many students enjoyed the diversity they were surrounded by, as well as the activities provided by the KCLSU. A first-year Classics student told us his experience was “mostly enjoyable before Covid hit”, and others agreed. Matilda, a History student, spoke to us about how she felt communication between the university’s administration team and students in regards to the Coronavirus was lacking, although she admits King’s was not entirely to blame.
In general, we observed that the management of the Coronavirus situation left students unhappy due to uncertainty and little notice about future plans. A third-year Philosophy student, who wished to remain anonymous, summed up the issue, explaining that there was a “lack of transparency and urgency in terms of providing key information via email” during the outbreak of the pandemic which made an already unprecedented experience more difficult than it needed to be.
Study Spaces and Admin
Apart from factors outside of the control of the university such as the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, the biggest concern amongst most students were study spaces and the institution’s administrative team. Most students we interviewed feel they don’t have enough study spaces, and that the university does not take this concern into consideration. Biomedicine students have constantly raised this issue and feel neglected. One of them spoke to us about this issue, saying “the university is increasing the number of students it accepts without expanding the study space available.” The students generally admit this is making this overcrowding situation even more difficult. We still ought to find out how they are going to manage the overcrowding of students with the new restrictions placed by the pandemic.
In terms of admin, students were not satisfied with the way timetabling is organised, as well as with tuition fee refunds. Another downside mentioned was the experience of King’s Residences, which had a rough year even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Matilda described King’s Residences as “very spread out and expensive in comparison to UCL/SOAS”, while another first-year History student also told us about her experience with the university accommodation system: “It was extremely stressful securing a room at King’s Residences for my second year.
“The new accommodation system is very unfair and it is based on pure luck and a good internet speed. The university should heavily revise their system, as it is extremely discouraging not only for returning students, but also for new students at King’s. I spoke to a lot of upcoming first-year students and securing a room caused them a lot of distress. KCL has to remember that King’s Residences is one of the new student’s first interactions with the university. You don’t want to give prospective students a bad experience even before they start university.”
Teaching and Community
Regarding the quality of teaching, however, we saw a very positive response. Students think that they benefit from high-quality instruction, and they have a strong bond with their teachers. However, some were dissatisfied with the amount of strikes last year, which led to a “lack of teaching”. This is especially true for students who just finished their third year at King’s, as two-thirds of their time at university was disrupted by strikes.
We also asked students whether they felt a sense of community on campus. An undergraduate at Strand, who wished to remain anonymous, admitted that living in the centre of London can be estranging at times. Another student described Strand as “isolating and lonely”. The campus experience at King’s is not all negative, however. This is especially true for Guy’s campus, where students seemed to feel a greater sense of community as opposed to Strand. A Biomedicine student described Guy’s campus as “sociable and feels like a proper campus, lots of medic camaraderie. Lots of diversity”. This may be due to the different locations of the campuses, with Guy’s far more sheltered and enclosed than campuses such as Strand or Waterloo.
This testimony should not be discouraging for new students. Life at King’s is unique, and each student’s experience will differ somewhat from that of their peers. However, there are a lot of things the university has to work on if it wishes to satisfy all its students. From building a greater sense of community at Strand campus, to increasing study spaces at Guy’s, we’re looking forward to seeing what actions the institution will take. We know making these changes can be challenging, but we also believe it is detrimental to listen to the students’ voices in order to allow everyone to experience university fully!