National Student Survey: Aim for Satisfaction?

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There’s a lot of debate that I overhear about the value of the National Student Survey, feedback forms, etc. Which parts of those should we use to decide how we work with students, and in which areas do lecturers know better… Stefan Collini definitely thinks tutor knows best:

On the face of it, “student satisfaction” sounds like a good idea: who would want universities full of morose, miserable students?

But Stefan Collini, professor of English literature and intellectual history at the University of Cambridge, will have none of it.

“It may be that the most appropriate way to decide whether the atmosphere in the student bar is right is by whether students say, when asked in a questionnaire, that they ‘like’ it or not,” he writes in What Are Universities For?, published this week. “But this is obviously not the best way to decide whether a philosophy degree should have a compulsory course in Kant.”

On the contrary, he hopes that the students he teaches will come away with certain kinds of dissatisfaction – including with themselves, for “a ‘satisfied’ student is well-nigh ineducable”.

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