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Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

5.3.3 Policy statement on obtaining and using student feedback - Obtaining feedback on the student experience in relation to colleges and central support services

1. The contribution that student feedback can make to the monitoring and enhancement of broader aspects of the student experience (as offered or supported by the University's colleges or support services, for example the Library, ITS, CAS, Counselling, DUSSD, International Office) is significant. Consequently the University expects that, like academic departments/schools, colleges and central support services should have in place effective processes for obtaining and responding to student feedback.

2. The University is committed to using a broad range of methods for obtaining feedback on the student experience, with the choice of method being made in light of the reason why feedback is being sought and the nature of the issue(s) being considered. These methods include:

a. Formal representation on committees, steering groups etc.

b. Questionnaires.

c. Focus groups.

3. This list is not, and cannot be, exhaustive. Rather it is illustrative of the range of approaches that colleges and central support services might take to obtaining feedback on the student experience.

Approaches to obtaining and responding to student feedback

4. The University expects colleges and central support services to use a range of methods for obtaining feedback from students. In particular, it lays particular emphasis on the importance of the student membership of relevant committees, steering groups etc. and stresses that student questionnaires should not be the only mechanism for gathering and considering student feedback.

5. All colleges and student-facing central support services should publish on their website a brief statement detailing how they obtain student feedback; how and where they consider this feedback; and how they make the results of this feedback known to students.

Formal representation on committees, steering groups etc.

6. The University's Principles for Student Engagement emphasise the importance of dialogue between staff and students, in an atmosphere of mutual trust, as being central to effective student engagement. Representative systems are crucial to this, and therefore colleges and central support services should place a particular importance on these systems in obtaining student feedback.

7. Colleges and central support services have a range of different governance arrangements. However, whatever the precise nature of these arrangements they should ensure that effective student representation is in place as part of these arrangements. The detail of this will vary (for example it may be through student representation on a management committee/steering group, establishing a separate committee consisting of student representatives, or a combination of both), but effective arrangements must be in place.

8. Given the variation in arrangements that will be in place across colleges and central support services, it would not be possible or appropriate to develop detailed guidelines for the operation of student representation in relation to colleges and central support services. However, colleges and support departments should take account of the underlying principles and spirit of the University's Policy on student representation. Advice on guidance on this is available from the Deputy Academic Registrar.

Questionnaires

9. The University recognises that questionnaires play an important role in obtaining student feedback in relation to colleges and central support services, but questionnaires should only be used as part of a range of mechanisms for obtaining student feedback. The University is also aware that administering, answering and analysing questionnaires demand significant amounts of staff and student time, and of the need to respect the many demands on the time of both staff and students.

10. Consequently if a college or central support service wishes to administer a questionnaire to students it must follow the processes for University-wide questionnaires detailed in Section 5.3.2 paragraphs 19 to 23 above. The only exception to this is the Student Experience Survey administered by Colleges' Division, where there is no requirement to seek approval from Student Experience Sub-Committee to administer the questionnaire.

11. Student Experience Sub-Committee will maintain a schedule detailing all approved questionnaires by colleges and support departments, plus any University-wide questionnaires administered in line with paragraphs 22 to 24above, in order to allow it to take an overview of the timing and volume of questionnaires students are asked to complete outside their academic department/school.

Focus groups

12. Colleges and support departments may wish to make use of focus groups to gather student feedback. Those who wish to do so should consult the brief comments in Section 5.3.2 paragraphs 24 to 26 on the use of such groups.