Camilla King, Director of Client Partnerships UK at IDP Connect, takes a first look in to the 2024 Whatuni Student Choice Awards review data to understand performance for London institutions so far vs. previous years.
The Whatuni Student Choice Awards (WUSCAs) are the only higher education (HE) awards in the UK that are voted for exclusively by students across a variety of categories – and the Whatuni reviews that make up the awards have become an essential part of the prospective students’ decision-making process. Each year, we have over five million users on Whatuni, a comprehensive research site that helps prospective students and influencers make informed decisions around the right course and university for them. According to the 2023 ‘published by UCAS, 81% of students use online reviews when deciding their HE choice – so it is no surprise how valuable our student audience find these up-to-date reviews.
In recent years, we have collected an average of 35,000 reviews from current students studying across the UK, who have reviewed their institutions across a number of defined categories including: Student Union; Student Support; Careers Prospects; and Overall University Rating. Each category is rated out of five stars. So far this year, the engagement across the UK has been fantastic, with institutions harnessing the power of peer-to-peer reviews to enhance student satisfaction, strengthen reputation and drive continuous improvement. We have collected over 19,000 reviews (+34% in volume compared to this time in 2023), and students have until 29 February to submit reviews for their institutions to be eligible for this year’s WUSCAs taking place on 24 April at The Brewery in London – a real date for the UK HE calendar.
Through our real-time WUSCA dashboard, we have identified early trends for the 2024 review collection cycle, with the ability to filter the data in a number of ways, including by mission group, destination region, institution, study level, nationality and subject area. It also allows a retrospective view of performance in previous years to understand if student satisfaction is improving.
So, what is the review data telling us so far?
Of the reviews collected so far, 11% are from Greater London institutions. Of this 11%, 54% of the reviews are from undergraduate (UG) students and 46% from postgraduate (PG) students, which bucks the trend we see in the rest of the UK (currently a split of 69% UG and 31% PG). When filtering by nationality, 65% of the reviews are from domestic students, and 35% from international students.
Looking specifically at ‘Greater London’ for some early results, (and also looking back at previous cycles to understand if the early indicators are positive), there are some great stories coming through. The screenshot below, taken from our real time WUSCA dashboard, shows that ratings are up significantly across three categories: University Rating; Student Support; and Career Prospects.
This is a significant % increase so far this year, compared to 2023 results, with a 4.6% increase in overall University rating, 4.8% increase in Career Prospects rating, and an 8% increase in Student Support rating to date. Reviewing 2022 – a year where universities were jostling the return to normal post the Covid-19 pandemic – these increases are even more stark, with an 11% increase in overall University rating, 9.4% increase in Career Prospects rating, and a 15.4% increase in Student Support rating for 2024 to date vs. 2022. This is testament to the work and dedication of these institutions to improve student satisfaction and experience for their student cohorts. In a time where negative stories about the value of going to university are rife, it is heartening to see that student satisfaction is up and students are finding huge value in their tertiary education.
So, what have students been saying? Throughout the review collection process, we collect both the quantitative review score, but also allow students to leave comments, allowing us to understand qualitative feedback. Below are a few student comments, highlighting the positive experiences they are experiencing at their institutions:
“Tutors really care and want the best for you, they always make an effort to reach out and offer support and guidance.”
“… if there is any problem to students in their study or about university experience there is always student support available. Students are free to talk about their experiences not only this but also if they have any problem in modules or teaching experiences they freely go online then send email to school office and get a solution of their problems.”
“… has got a unique way of delivering quality teaching in an awesome learning environment. Does an excellent job preparing the students towards their career, ensures equity and inclusion with enabling environment for mutual growth while building life-long relationships. I could go on and on, the reach no uni can beat!…”
In previous years, where institutions have performed well, there have been common themes around the feeling of community and how students have been supported, whether that is support whilst studying, financial support, careers prospects resources or general support throughout their university journey.
If you want to learn more about this year’s WUSCAs and ensure your institution is empowering your students to share their authentic voice, fostering a culture of feedback and a commitment to HE excellence, as well as helping the next generation of students make informed decisions based on real experiences, please get in touch with me at Camilla.firstname.lastname@example.org or with our WUSCA project manager Qasim.Badri@idp.com. We can talk you through historic performance alongside best practice to ensure a successful review collection period and eligibility for this year’s WUSCAs.