LUC The Hague Student Surveys: Results and Actions
Each year, students are asked for their input through multiple surveys. In 2019, three annual surveys collected input on the overall organization and quality of LUC’s program and facilities: the Grand Program Survey, the National Student Survey (NSE), and the LUC Housing survey. LUC values student feedback immensely and takes the input from these surveys very seriously, but one of the recurring comments is that we provide too little feedback on the results and resulting actions from these surveys. In this report we summarize the most important results and the action points that were tackled in the past year. We also take a look at what is on the to-do-list for the coming year.
In general, all surveys show that students are very happy with the programme, as was also evidenced by the first place in the Studiekeuzegids Hoger Onderwijs ranking. When asked in the Grand Survey 2019 if students would recommend studying at LUC to others, the score was 4.3 on a 1-5 scale, similar to Grand Survey 2018. Many remarks are made about the excellent teachers and courses on offer. Each block a similar high quality trend is noted by the Programme Council at the course level. The Programma Council reports to the Programme Board on the course evaluations and makes recommendations for improvement. Concerns are always discussed with the relevant instructor and/or major convener.
The high scores of LUC are also reflected in the National Student Survey (NSE) and in the International Student Barometer (2018). Students were highly positive about the content of the programme (4.3), the teachers (4,4), group size (4.7) and also in general (4.5). This places our Liberal Arts and Sciences programme among the best LA&S programmes in the Netherlands.
The results of the NSE can be consulted on www.studiekeuze123.nl. The comparison with other programmes shows that LUC scores highest in six of eighteen categories (content, student satisfaction, scheduling, information, group size and assessment), is the only programme that scores above average in all categories, and has the highest average across all categories.
We are convinced that the continuous efforts in reviewing and improving our programme play an important role in the consistent high scores and ranking of LUC. While being proud at our high quality programme, there is always room for improvement; this is outlined below.
In 2018 the entire first year programme has been evaluated and a First Year Coordinator, Dr Paul Hudson, was appointed. In the past year he has worked with the conveners on increasing the coherence between LUC’s signature Global Challenges courses, in consultation with the course conveners. This has led to a change in the order of the Global Challenges courses from next academic year on: Block 1: GC Diversity – Block 2: GC Sustainability – Block 3: GC Peace and Justice – Block 4: GC Prosperity. The Global Challenges narrative will be further developed as a shared storyline in all 4 courses, in order to make clear connections between them.
In 2018-2019 GC Diversity has been redesigned by the new convener in consultation with the other instructors. More LUC staff has been involved in teaching the course, instead of mostly external instructors. The first evaluations already show improvement. With the support of the First Year Coordinator we expect the next iterations to improve further.
The Statistics course has also been redesigned by a team of instructors, with a focus on connecting theory to practice: How to apply the taught material to specific questions related to global challenges or real-life research questions? The first evaluations were good.
Following both the course evaluation and the programme evaluation, changes have been made to the Mathematics courses, such as the introduction of a new book that has been specifically written for LUC, Mathematics for Global Challenges. At the higher level this has worked well, the lower level mathematics course was more challenging. The course convener is working with the colleagues from the Mathematical Institute to further develop the course, closely monitored by the Programme Board.
Besides dedicated activities and events on career services and alumni relations, career orientation is also something that can be improved within the existing programme. It is a point of attention for the university at large and each programme has been asked to make more explicit which transferrable skills students learn that prepare them for a future professional (academic) career. As of 2020-2021, the e-Prospectus will contain such information on programme-level. Course instructors will be asked to make it more explicit on course-level. Furthermore LUC will continue to inform students about the activities of the FGGA Career Service and the options Leiden University offers, for example through Career Zone.
With the ICTO-coordinator options are explored to provide summaries of the course evaluations to students. This is a sensitive topic though, as feedback may include privacy sensitive information that should not be spread widely. Communication about the general trends will be improved via newsletters. In cooperation with the PC, students will be informed on the process of quality management: How does this process work? What happens with the course evaluation results? What actors are involved in quality management of the programme?
Last year Research Design courses were introduced for all majors, with the aim to prepare students for their capstone work. Each major has its own Research Design course. Overall they were well evaluated. Our standard practice is to always review first iterations of new courses. The results of the review were discussed with the course instructors and Board of Examiners. Final conclusions will be communicated soon, so they can be used to improve the next round of RD courses.
Two other groups of courses that were challenging in previous years have improved a lot: the courses that were taught by staff from Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) and the Economics courses. LUC is grateful that the colleagues from these institutes have cooperated so well to get to these results.
Giving timely formative feedback to students on their assessments is very important in LUC’s small scale and interactive teaching environment and continuous assessment system. Although this is emphasized in many ways to our teachers, more can be done. The International Student Barometer (ISB) 2018 showed a result of 64% satisfaction with feedback on assessments, which is one of our lowest scores. We do know from student evaluations and annual reviews that the quality of feedback given by internal staff is often better than from external staff from Leiden partner institutes, who are not as familiar with our intensive continuous assessment system. In this year a series of workshops for instructors on the sharing of best practices has started; one of them being on formative feedback and assessments.
New electives were introduced in AY 2018-2019 on the basis of needs identified by students: Programming and Creative Writing. Both proved popular and were well evaluated. In the current year we will develop a policy on electives, to make sure that all (new) electives provide added value to the programme.
A second long(er)-term project is the Global Citizenship component, an important feature of our programme. Throughout the years courses have been added to fulfill this requirement, but the vision for Global Citizenship has evolved in the past years and in AY 2018-2019 this was reviewed and revised. A new definition of Global Citizenship has been developed, the learning aims have been adjusted and a new framework has been created. As a result language courses will gradually be phased out as an option to fulfill this requirement. At the same time eight new 10 EC courses at 200-level will be developed in the coming years that can take either the format of a Service Learning course (like the Community Project), a Field course or a SPOC. LUC staff is currently proposing and developing new ideas and the Programme Board has received exciting cross-disciplinary proposals. The new courses will be gradually implemented between 2020 and 2024. This project is financed through the Kwaliteitsmiddelen (Quality Means).
Housing, Facilities, and Organization
In the NSE, LUC this year scored above average on ‘academic facilities’. In the Grand Survey, more detailed questions were asked about facilities and organization of non-programme related matters. In a separate Housing survey, LUC asked specifically and in detail for feedback about student housing and residential life at AvB, and about the services provided by the various parties involved.
As to the academic facilities, most feedback focused on the availability of quiet study spaces at AvB. As a result, LUC is now making a detailed plan for placing a glass wall between the cafeteria and the study area on floor 2, so that the study area becomes a quiet space. However, it is not yet clear if funds can be allocated to this costly project. In the meantime, empty classrooms can continue to be booked (at the info desk) for quiet study time; we will promote this option more strongly this year.
Students also indicated the need for electrical sockets in classroom tables, so that laptops can be connected. This was realized during the winter break and table sockets should be operational as from block 3. Please take care when pulling the tables apart: first disconnect the cables before moving the tables, and re-connect them when you are done. We are currently also looking into the possibility of increasing the number of computers for the Digital Lab. Repair and upgrade of the Arts room is also on the agenda for this year.
Fortuna and Coasters are planning the renewal of furniture on floor 1, as this is their shared responsibility. Several students indicated a need for healthier food choices in the cafeteria and the vending machines. LUC has communicated this to the UFB (the department responsible for these services) and will continue to monitor this. The terrace furniture on floor 4 was upgraded with picnic tables and new chairs.
Many comments pointed out that LUC should pay more attention to sustainability, including recycling of garbage. We have therefore decided to start a project in 2020 addressing the sustainability of our college, in cooperation with support staff, academic staff and students.
As to organizational and other matters, one of the main concerns with students is the attention given to internships and Masters, as well as general relations with external organizations. LUC recently appointed an Alumni engagement & Fundraising officer (Cindy Olaria). She will connect our current students with our growing community of alumni, also on the topics of internships and Master program choice. In 2019 a second ‘Inspire the Students’ event was organized in which alumni shared their journey after LUC with current students. In the field of Career orientation, FGGA has a Career Service (also on Facebook) and the university offers the https://careerzone.universiteitleiden.nl/en/ website with a wealth of information and job adverts. LUC will continue to make students aware of these options.
From the surveys it is obvious that the information provided via the Student Handbook is not consulted often. LUC’s support staff is currently working on improving the information shared via the student website, so that information is always complete and up to date. The newsletter seems to be appreciated better by the respondents. We are studying the options for creating an ‘intranet’ environment for our community but need to stay within Leiden University regulations.
Students indicated a need for more guidance and support related to self-care and wellbeing, and with dealing with conflicts or controversial opinions in our community. Also, the diversity of the student body is still a point of concern. LUC is currently running a Students4Students project on diversity, as well as a pilot series of workshops focused on personal and academic skills. These will lead to a more coherent programme addressing these issues in the coming years.
Overall, most students have a positive experience with living on campus, especially in relation to social life, student life, and community building. In the Grand Survey, residential life and residential facilities (quality of student rooms) scored an average of 4 (out of 5). However, both the Grand Survey as well as the Housing Survey (in much more detail) identified several key areas for improvement of the residential facilities. Many different suggestions were made, which will be taken into consideration; for this newsletter we’ve selected the most urgent points.
For DUWO in the role of landlord, most feedback focused on issues of communication about contract-related issues. LUC will work with DUWO to improve this.
DUWO got an average score as a manager of the residential areas, but there were a lot of comments. Most comments were dealing with the inadequacy of the laundry facilities. These are now at the top of our priority list with DUWO. Other topics of urgent attention are the general cleaning of common areas, the services provided by the caretaker, maintenance and repair (by caretaker as well as Vastgoedservices). LUC has bimonthly meetings with DUWO about these, and other, matters. We are currently also discussing the options to change the furniture package, especially the orang/red chairs which are not much appreciated as the survey showed.
For LUC’s own team the most important feedback was that we have to improve our communication about all housing related aspects. We are working on improving and updating the information on the student website and via various other channels. We have also taken the advice to heart, to talk more about the challenges of on-campus living during recruitment events.
Feedback on the SLO and Resident Assistants focused on the enforcement of rules on campus, and on the organization of social activities on the floors. All comments have been shared with the SLO and were discussed with the RA team.
The survey also indicated that there is room for students themselves to take more responsibility for the residential campus, especially when it comes to cleaning the common rooms, keeping the corridors and common rooms free of garbage and clutter, keep the garbage room clean, and comply better with quiet times and general rules such as no smoking. Together with the SLO and RA’s, a common room competition was organized which resulted in major improvements of almost all common rooms.
Students’ input on the surveys is very important and highly valued by LUC! Each response is included in our analyses and reports and several actors are involved in this process: Programme Board, Programme Council, College Board, College Council, individual course instructors and their supervisors, policy officers at LUC and FGGA. Unfortunately it is quite a challenge to reach a high response rate each year. Therefore an incentive is connected to the surveys: a small donation for each completed survey to a goal that will be beneficent to the LUC community.
Grand Survey 2018: 44% first years, 29% senior years
Grand Survey 2019: 29% first years, 23% senior years
NSE 2018: 265 responses = 39%
NSE 2019: 282 responses = 43%
Last year fewer efforts were made to promote the Grand Survey (beyond the regular emails and posters), which may be the reason for the low response rate. The total of the survey incentives in the past two years is EUR 498,25 to spend on something beneficial to the LUC community. The student members of the Programme Council and College Council will be asked for ideas. Suggestions can be submitted to them.
Keep your Feedback Coming!
As you can see, your feedback is very welcome and leads to real action and results, even if this may sometimes only benefit the students who come after you. We strongly encourage you to continue giving us your feedback. This can consist of completing all surveys, but you can also talk to the members of the Programme Council and College Council, attend the Dean’s lunches or use the office hours that the members of the CB have.