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Uni Gets Student Thumbs Up

John Freeman
Lancaster University has climbed 10 places in the Times Higher Education’s annual rankings of student satisfaction.

After more than 12,000 full time undergraduates across the UK rated their own university on a list of 21 factors chosen by the students themselves, the Uni now ranks 20th out of a total of 101 institutions assessed in the survey which aims to show which universities offer the best student experience.

Factors ranged from relationships with teaching staff to links with industry, tuition in small groups, a good library and a good campus environment.

The main areas which students considered most important were the quality of staff and lectures, helpful staff, a good community atmosphere and vibrant social scene.

The results complement other good results for Lancaster recently. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise showed that 92% of research at Lancaster is recognised as world leading or internationally significant and, aking into account the high proportion of staff submitted to the RAE, Lancaster University emerges in the top ten in the country overall for research quality (link is Excel spreadsheet).

In the THE-QS World Rankings 2008, Lancaster is ranked in the top 200 universities globally and is one of only 29 UK universities included in the list. Nationally, The Guardian places Lancaster in the top 10 in the UK while the Independent ranks Lancaster 12th.

Despite the positive comments on the University, there appears need for some improvemenst and not all its policies are popular. In what looks like a pretty draconian measure, late last year student union newspaper SCAN recently reported that second year students at the Lancaster University Management School have been told they must use CVs radically altered by University staff when applying for placement schemes.

In the wider Lancaster community it continues to be criticised for its apparent lack of a coherent transport policy with car use by students and staff contributing to Lancaster's traffic problems, despite regular buses almost every ten minutes to campus during term time. It's still regarded by many as aloof and out of touch and the huge number of students there (and the University of Cumbria) present their own challenges to locals, not least of which are late night noise in some areas.

The University, which has an annual income of £149 million, no doubt bolstered by the commercial rents from the many businesses now operating there, from longtime operators such as Waterstones and Spar to relative newcomers such as Diggles and Sultans restaurant, employs 2,250 staff and has some 17,415 students, says it is committed to further enhancing the student experience as part of a £300m redevelopment of campus.

Work has begun on a new student learning zone to provide different types of learning environments, flexible social space and up to date technology. A continuing programme of major refurbishments to the college bars and social spaces continues and planning permission has been granted for a new £20m sports centre.