Teaching & Learning


Student feedback is shaping local improvements in departments across UCL

20 April 2020

How UCL departments have sought student feedback and ideas to help shape an inspirational student experience - a key part of the UCL 2034 strategy.

Woman sitting on floor typing on a laptop. Credit: Thought Catalog/ Unsplash

The feedback and ideas of UCL students are instrumental in shaping UCL’s efforts to build an inspirational student experience, which forms a key part of the UCL 2034 strategy.

You can collect students’ perspectives in numerous ways, both online and face-to-face. Each method of collecting feedback helps to map the areas where we are exceeding expectations, as well as establishing areas for further development.

Here, we can see some examples of how different departments across UCL have sought feedback from their students, and how this feedback has inspired tangible improvements.

Student Academic Reps and Staff-Student Consultative Committees (SSCCs)

Student Reps are an essential resource in understanding the needs of the student body. Once elected, they act as a liaison between staff and students in communicating developments from both sides.

Shanmuga Priya Mishra, an Academic Rep on the MA Education, Gender and International Development programme recalls how she saw “changes in classroom preparations, study materials and student facilities in the department” in response to a Google feedback form collected by Academic Reps and passed on to staff. For example, the department installed more water fountains, and released reading lists with clearer guidance on what was essential reading and what was recommended.

Paris Will, a Rep on the MSc Industrial/Organisational and Business Psychology programme reported that her department launched a weekly careers seminar and used an SSCC meeting to request more support in preparing for work. The seminars have offered a variety of resources to the students in the form of guest speakers from the industry, workshop sessions and extra time for discussion. The students also feel the seminars helped them become a closer group and learn from their peers who come from different backgrounds.

The Office of the Vice-Provost (Education & Student Affairs) is currently working with Students’ Union UCL to provide guidance to departments planning virtual SSCC meetings. You can contact the team with any questions you might have.

Survey Feedback

Surveys help staff to gather large quantities of data from students, and results are shared at departmental and programme level. There are several surveys in place at UCL including the National Student Survey (NSS), New to UCL, The Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) and the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES), meaning all UCL students are typically surveyed once each year. Key changes introduced as a result of survey responses include:

  • In response to students requesting more study spaces, the Student Centre - with 1,000 new study spaces - was built and the UCL Main Library began to open over the Christmas closure.
  • As some students said that there wasn’t enough academic writing support at UCL, The Academic Communication Centre opened in the first term of the 2019-20 academic year.
  • With some students having difficulty understanding the rules on academic misconduct and plagiarism, the Academic Integrity course on Moodle was introduced to explain how to avoid academic malpractice and plagiarism. You can find more examples of positive changes inspired by student feedback on the You Shape UCL webpage.

Online Forums

With UCL’s teaching and learning terrain rapidly evolving, many departments are embracing digital services that allow students to supply ad-hoc feedback without waiting for a survey or SSCC opportunity.

For instance, Unitu, a digital platform that lets staff collect and respond to student feedback in real-time, has been introduced in departments including the UCL Medical School. This has allowed students to have direct communication with the Medical School staff and vote on how issues are affecting them.

Final year Medic, Aisling O’Sullivan feels the introduction of Unitu has made it much easier to talk to the department and share concerns because of the openness the students now feel with staff. Aisling reports that since Unitu launched, students have been provided with “a curriculum map, more structured feedback and the Medical School has offered students more mental health support”, and now feel “very well supported on the course”.

Academic Reps in the Bartlett’s MSc Environment and Sustainable Development programme, meanwhile, have set up an anonymous online form for students to contact them if they don’t feel comfortable getting in touch via other methods.

Feedback gathered in the online forms reported that students struggled to find space to study due to high demand. In response, Bartlett staff booked a study space every Friday afternoon on behalf of students that can be used for group work, peer-to-peer skills sessions and group revision sessions; students on the course were very appreciative of this initiative.