UWTSD celebrates students’ satisfaction
THE UNIVERSITY of Wales Trinity Saint David has been awarded its highest ever Student Satisfaction score in the National Student Survey 2017 (NSS).
Satisfaction amongst final year undergraduates at the University has improved in two consecutive years to 85% from 79% two years ago.
This was achieved in a year when a new survey format was introduced and when the overall UK national average fell from 87% to 84%. The University welcomes these results which now see UWTSD ranked 4th University overall in Wales.
In many key areas these NSS results show that the University has performed above or in line with the sector average including for the strength of teaching where 91% of UWTSD students agreed that ‘staff are good at explaining things’.
The University is ranked first overall in Wales in the new ‘Learning Community’ category which asks students if they feel part of a community of students and staff and if they’ve had the opportunity to work with other students as they complete their degree. UWTSD was also ranked 2nd overall in Wales in the ‘Learning Opportunities’ and ‘Assessment Feedback’ categories.
The annual survey asks final year students to rate their student experience and includes questions on such topics as the quality of the teaching, assessment and feedback, academic support, organisation and management, as well as the learning resources available to students and the student voice. These results include feedback from students across the University’s Swansea, Carmarthen, Lampeter and London campuses as well as those studying at its constituent college Coleg Sir Gâr and FE partner colleges.
“We very much welcome these latest results which have seen a further increase in Student Satisfaction at UWTSD,” said Dr Mirjam Plantinga, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Experience. “To improve our UK and Wales position so much in just two years is quite an achievement and is testament to the hard work of all staff at the University. We’re delighted with the excellent department-level results which include a particularly strong performance from the Faculty of Education and Communities with their first place in Wales for ‘Initial Teacher Training’ and top ten UK positions for ‘Academic Studies in Education’ and Social Work.”
Dr Plantinga added: “Student engagement is a priority at UWTSD and is crucial to achieving a high quality student experience. We work in close partnership with the Students’ Union to ensure that student voice is integral to our planning activities throughout the organisation. As we do with every survey we will be looking at the results to help us identify areas for enhancement. National surveys provide us with that vital feedback to help us ensure we’re meeting the needs of our students.”
Rob Simkins, TSDSU Group President said: “It’s encouraging to see a positive result in so many areas, with particularly good results at individual course level too. The Students’ Union will continue to work closely with the University during the coming year to continue the good work in enhancing the student experience across all of our campuses”.
These latest NSS results confirm the University’s strong performance in relation to its quality of teaching, academic support and learning community in many student-centred surveys over the past year.
Of the 122 British universities that were part of the recent Times Higher Education Student Experience survey UWTSD was ranked in the top 20 overall for ‘Academic Experience’, and ranked 4th in the UK for ‘good personal relationships with teaching staff’, and joint first in Wales. UWTSD was also ranked 9th in the UK for ‘high-quality staff/ lectures’ and again joint first in Wales.
Of the 45 institutions that took part in the 2016 Autumn Wave of the International Student Barometer and Student Barometer survey globally UWTSD was ranked first overall in eleven of the main categories surveyed including for the ‘quality of lectures’, ‘personal tutoring’ and the university’s ‘counselling services’. UWTSD also came out on top when it came to ‘small class sizes’, ‘assessing students’ work’ and ‘meeting staff on arrival’.
Professor Medwin Hughes, DL, Vice-Chancellor, said: “The excellent results achieved in the NSS is very pleasing and supports the feedback that we have received throughout the year from our students where the quality of teaching, academic support and the learning community are consistently rated highly by our students. The University makes a considerable investment in ensuring the quality of the student experience through the range of activities and opportunities provided as part of, or in addition to, our programmes of study. We will continue to develop engaging initiatives for our students in order to ensure that they are provided with a range of opportunities to develop as well-rounded individuals who will make a valuable contribution to their chosen fields of expertise.”
Examination crisis: teacher’s predicted grades to be given to students
THE Welsh Government has announced today (Mon, Aug 17) that AS, A level, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate and Welsh Baccalaureate grades in Wales will now be awarded on the basis of Centre Assessment Grades.
This occurred after the outrage of students, causing protests outside the Senedd after hearing that a total of 42% of A-level grades predicted by their teachers had been lowered when the Welsh results were published last week. This was due to the decision to process these grades through an algorithm.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she took the decision to maintain confidence in the system.
Speaking on the decision, Kirsty Williams said: “Working with Qualifications Wales and WJEC we have sought an approach which provides fairness and balances out differences in the standards applied to judgments in schools.
“Given decisions elsewhere, the balance of fairness now lies with awarding Centre Assessment grades to students, despite the strengths of the system in Wales.
“I am taking this decision now ahead of results being released this week, so that there is time for the necessary work to take place.
“For grades issued last week, I have decided that all awards in Wales, will also be made on the basis of teacher assessment.
“For those young people, for whom our system produced higher grades than those predicted by teachers, the higher grades will stand.
“Maintaining standards is not new for 2020, it is a feature of awarding qualifications every year in Wales, and across the UK.
“However, it is clear that maintaining confidence in our qualifications whilst being fair to students requires this difficult decision.
“These have been exceptional circumstances, and in due course I will be making a further statement on an independent review of events following the cancellation of this year’s exams.
“Other Awarding Bodies across the UK are involved in determining the approach to vocational qualifications. This continues to be the case but it is important that I give assurance to GCSE, AS and A level student at the earliest opportunity.”
This was a decision welcomed by Suzy Davies, Shadow Education Minister.
Commenting on the Decision, Suzy Davies said: “This has been an exceptional time, and this news will come as a very welcome relief for the thousands of A-Level students who last week were looking at grades lower than they were predicted to receive. It will also be a relief to pupils expecting results this week as well as an acknowledgement of quite how much effort teachers put into this.
“It is reassuring that the Minister has listened to the Welsh Conservatives and other parties in the Welsh Parliament, but especially pleasing that she heard the voices of young people up and down the country.
“These students – at A, AS, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate, and Welsh Baccalaureate level – will now have the confidence to plan their future education or career aspirations, and reach their potential.”
The Education Minister also promised an independent review of the events “following the cancellation of this year’s exams”.
Students who received higher grades than those predicted by teachers will keep them.
Swansea University appoints new governing body Chair
Swansea University is pleased to announce that Bleddyn Phillips has been appointed as its new Chair of Council.
Mr Phillips, who joined the University’s governing body in May 2017, has been appointed Chair for a four-year term replacing Sir Roger Jones, whose term of office came to an end in September 2019.
Mr Phillips said: “It is a great honour to be appointed Swansea University’s Chair of Council. As a Welsh-speaker, with strong roots in Llanelli and Gower, and with both parents having studied at Swansea, I have long felt an affinity with the University and have been delighted to serve on the Council.
“I want to acknowledge the contribution made to the University by Sir Roger Jones over almost 14 years and I very much look forward to working with, and serving, the University as it celebrates its centenary in 2020 and beyond.”
Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said “It will be a privilege to work with Bleddyn as we develop our new strategic plan and look forward to beginning our second century in 2020.”
Mr Phillips is a lawyer by profession, a former commercial director at oil companies BP and Total, and later Global Head of the Oil and Gas practice at the international law firm, Clifford Chance LLP. He is Director of Llanelli Scarlets RFC and was a trustee of the Wales Millennium Centre from 2012-2018.
The Council is the University’s governing body, which approves the mission and strategic vision of the University, long-term academic and business plans, key performance indicators and overall standards. The Council assures that the University discharges its duties in accordance with the Welsh Quality Assessment Framework.
Experts attack Welsh Government’s proposed smacking ban plan
PROMINENT academics have criticised the Welsh Government’s bill to criminalise parental smacking during a public debate at Swansea University.
Tonight, experts from the fields of sociology and criminology and parenting studies poured scorn on the plan during an Academy of Ideas debate on state intervention in the family.
A panel of three academics discussed the merits or otherwise of the smacking legislation, which is due to be debated by AMs for a third time in January next year.
Dr Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at Abertay University and outspoken critic of the Scottish smacking Bill, said: “No longer treated like citizens, as adults who have an opinion and a basic level of autonomy to raise our children, we have culture change imposed from on high – we are made ‘aware’ by the new authoritarians holding the stick above us.
“The smacking act is a disgrace. It is a form of brutality that undermines parents, weakens the meaning of freedom, and will go on to destroy many loving families who dare to think and act differently to the modern elitists.”
Dr Waiton added: “The brutality of the smacking act will mean that a light smack on the hand or bottom of a child will be a criminal offence. Hard smacking is already illegal, but to the middle-class anti-smacking zealots that was not enough. Children, they argue, need equal protection from assault. The very language they use is alien to the millions of parents who occasionally smack rather than assault their children.
“Parents know that smacking a child is a form of discipline often done out of love and concern rather than something that is abusive and criminal.”
Criticising the way politicians at the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have engaged with parents on the smacking legislation, he said: “The new elite think a lot about consultation and inclusion. The reality is a process run by a small section of society, politicians and professionals, who exist in their own bubble and are distant and disconnected from ordinary people.”
Ellie Lee, Professor of Parenting Research at the University of Kent also spoke out on the Welsh Government’s plans.
“Within the context of an authoritative child rearing relationship, aversive discipline including smacking is well accepted by the young child, effective in managing short-term misbehaviour and has no documented harmful long-term effects.”
She added: “It should be the concern of professionals who work with parents to respectfully offer them alternative disciplinary strategies rather than to condemn parents for using methods consonant with their own, but not the counsellors beliefs and values.”
The Professor accused the Welsh Government of using the “full force of the criminal law to attack people who disagree on the comparative merits of using smacking rather than something like timeout”, saying it is a “bureaucratic imposition on parents”.
Only one academic – Dr Gideon Calder, Associate Professor in Sociology and Social Policy at Swansea University – spoke in favour of Government interventions like the smacking ban.
Dr Calder argued that intervention is justifiable in some instances and said something like the smacking ban is not necessarily authoritarian. He said: “the point of the legislation is to safeguard children from potentially harmful interactions.”
Commenting on the debate, Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign, said:
“The criticism levelled at the Government’s smacking plans tonight by experts in the fields of sociology, criminology and parenting studies should be a wakeup call to Ministers.
“Experts are not convinced that the plan to outlaw parental smacking is viable, needful or helpful in terms of improving child protection.
“I hope AMs hear the concerns of these academics as well as their constituents and scrap the smacking ban bill when it’s voted on in January.”
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