How satisfied are your Learners?

01 August 2017

The results of the FE Choices Learner Satisfaction Survey and the 2016/17 National Report have been published in July 2017 on the Gov.uk website, giving Colleges and other learning providers an indicator to use to understand how satisfied their learners are with the service they provide.

The Learner Satisfaction Survey provides a rich dataset, which can be analysed by a wide range of variables including age, level of study and gender. Additional analysis can also take place by subject area and apprenticeship framework.

The total number of learners who submitted a valid response to the Learner Satisfaction Survey in 2016 to 2017 was 364,589. Of these, 340,615 were linked to the Individualised Learner Record (ILR), allowing analysis to be carried out against categories such as age and gender. The vast majority of learners submitted an online response, with 6% completing a paper-based survey.

The 2016/17 Learner Satisfaction Survey included eight rating questions. For the first seven, learners were asked to rate various aspects of their course, learning programme or training programme on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 represented ‘very dissatisfied’ and 10 represented ‘very satisfied’. The questions were:

  1. How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the teaching on your course or activity?
  2. How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the way staff treat you?
  3. How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the advice you have been given about what you can do after this course or activity?
  4. How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the support you get on this course or activity?
  5. How satisfied or dissatisfied are you that the course is meeting your expectations?
  6. How satisfied or dissatisfied are you that your learning provider responds to the views of learners?
  7. Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with your college or organisation that provides your learning?

The remaining question used a different scale: 

  1. How likely is it that you would recommend the learning provider to friends or family?

There were six possible responses to this question; “Extremely likely”, “Likely”, “Neither likely nor unlikely”, “Unlikely”, “Extremely unlikely” and “Does not apply”. 

The latest report shows at face value a range of improvements in the key findings from the survey at a national level and some interesting statistics for Senior Managers to review.

For example:

To the question, “How likely is it that you would recommend the learning provider to friends or family?”

  • 83% of respondents would recommend their learning provider to friends or family (2015-16: 80%).
  • 38% of respondents would be extremely likely to recommend the learning provider (2015-16: 35%).
  • 45% of respondents would be likely to recommend (2015-16: 46%).
  • 76% of 16-18 year olds would recommend their learning provider to friends or family (2015-16: 76%).
  • 25% of 16-18 year olds would be extremely likely to recommend the learning provider (2015-16: 25%).

So we can see from the results that there are only slight increases overall for this question and in reality there is no impact for young people in response to this question.  Principals and Senior Managers should review the data for their college and see how successful they were in arranging for learners to respond to the survey and if their student satisfaction improvement plans are having any tangible impact as far as this measure is concerned. Data is now available on the .Gov.uk website and Colleges can review their own data and benchmark against other similar organisations.

We have reviewed the headline national data and what we have found interesting with the survey, to start with, is actually the small number of responses from learners across the sector. The 364,589 respondents who took part in the survey were equivalent to only 18.2% of the eligible learner population – although 28% of eligible 16-18 year olds completed the survey. 

This means that the views of over 80% of learners were not included in the results – which is a staggering number of learners across the FE population. Considering the long window when the survey was open and available to complete (31 October 2016 to 7 April 2017)  it is difficult to understand why the take up of the survey was so low – although from a statistical perspective it does give us information which is broadly representative of the sector and can be used as a benchmark.

We would always recommend that Colleges widely encourage participation in the survey – the survey is free after all – and all the statistical data and analysis is carried out on your behalf. For example – as a senior manager or governor:

  • Do you know how many of your students took part in the survey? 
  • Did your College have a collegiate approach to conducting the survey?
  • Did the survey form part of a tutorial and did you make it easy for students to take part by booking IT suites or providing laptops to complete the task? 
  • Did you monitor which groups had taken part?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then it may be useful to consider these for the next survey – to ensure wider representation from your College. 

Going back to the data itself – there are some encouraging signs for the sector.  Analysis year on year from 2015-16 to 2016-17 does show that overall the responses across the sector are improving.  The Government website does not provide any historical analysis, so we have reviewed last year’s survey and have put together the headlines to show the trends.

Learner Satisfaction Survey Results - % of Respondents scoring 8 or more

 

Question Ages Group

2015-2016 Survey %

2016-2017 Survey % % Change

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the teaching on your course or activity?

16-18

68

68 0
19-24  76 78 
How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the way staff treat you? 16-18  75 76
19-24  85 87 2
How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the advice you have been given about what you can do after this course or activity? 16-18  60 62 2
19-24  70 72  2
How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the support you get on this course or activity? 16-18  69 70  1
19-24  79 80  1
How satisfied or dissatisfied are you that the course is meeting your expectations? 16-18 64  65  1
19-24  74 76  2
How satisfied or dissatisfied are you that your learning provider responds to the views of learners? 16-18  61  67 6
19-24 75   79 4
Overall, how satisfied or dissatisfied are you with your college or organisation that provides your learning? 16-18  67 67  0
19-24  78 79 

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What is satisfying to see, is the percentage increase for question 6, which is largely in response to Learner Voice activities.  Student Satisfaction and Learner Voice is an audit area that we are increasingly being asked to review through Internal Audit and we see a broad range of activity in place with our clients.  We are able to identify good practice and make a range of recommendations to improve learner voice type activities and work with clients to insure they are more responsive to the views of learners. 

The FE Learner Survey is due to take place next year and now may be a good time to consider how best to involve your College in the survey in order to gain useful and free information on your College.

  • Colleges and training providers in scope for FE Choices and eligible to take part in the survey included:
  • General FE colleges
  • Specialist colleges (including art and design and land based)
  • Special designated institutions
  • Higher education institutions
  • Other public-funded institutions
  • Private sector, public funded institutions 

If you would like to find our more about our Student Satisfaction and Learner Voice Audit Areas, then please contact the Internal Audit Team. We will work with you to review your activities and add value to your processes by working with your staff and students and advising you on best practice.

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