Offering students a high-quality experience
Students expect a distinct, outstanding offer from their university experience. At Derby, we are committed to demonstrating value for money for our students and have made a significant investment in order to maintain a high-quality student experience during this challenging year.
In this section, we explore the work the University is conducting to ensure the issue of value for money is being addressed and we outline how 'value for money' for our students has been achieved during 2019-2020.
How are we ensuring students receive a value for money experience?
Throughout the academic year, the University has continued to prioritise value for money for students, from providing a transparent approach to showing where student fee income goes, to developing an innovative learning and teaching delivery model during the pandemic to ensure students receive value from their investment in higher education.
What does value for money mean?
Value for money is a one of the Office for Students' (the regulator for higher education in England) strategic objectives and aims to ensure that "all students, from all backgrounds, receive value for money" from their university experience.
In September 2018, a Value for Money Advisory Group was set up at the University to understand the student perception of 'value for money'. A key feature of the group is that it is co-chaired by representatives from the Union of Students and is comprised of student officers and a cross-section of University staff.
The Group is responsible for the continual monitoring of institutional key performance indicators which ensure the delivery of Value for Money targets linked to the strategic priorities of the Office for Students: improving teaching quality, protecting students as consumers, increasing transparency and positive employment outcomes.
Throughout the pandemic students still expect their investment in higher education to offer an exceptional experience, consistency in terms of quality, being fit for purpose, offering value for money, and being transformational (Advance HE, 2020).
Where exactly do students’ tuition fees get spent?
In November 2019, the University's Value for Money Advisory Group led on the University's first publication of a tuition fee breakdown, aiming to improve transparency of where income from tuition fees was shared and allocated. View the full breakdown.
54% Learning and teaching
12% Operational support
6% Library and learner support
5% Widening access
3% Wellbeing and facilities
3% Student recruitment and marketing
1% Union of Students
The Value for Money Advisory Group has also considered the next steps in publishing further tuition fee breakdowns by student type, and the University Finance department is reviewing the processes currently in place, and the suitability to deliver a breakdown for international and part-time student fees as part of future plans.
The Group carried out a review of Programme Inclusive Fees, which led to the publication of clear information on what costs were included in each programme tuition fee and which were in addition to the annual fee. This information is not only important for prospective students to have full transparency over any fees incurred ahead of enrolling on their programme, but also provides a useful benchmarking tool for the Value for Money Advisory Group, enabling the group to draw comparisons across University colleges for the approach to setting fees that are in addition to the tuition fee, for example for overseas or domestic placements.
Impact of Covid-19 on value for money for students
In light of Covid-19 and the adjustments made to the student experience, the University has had to undertake a number of steps to assure value for money for students, including adopting a new educational model in order to ensure students received the support required to progress.
The blended learning model articulates an experiential, active learning experience with an in-person and online offering that offers confidence to our students that they can expect, and will receive, a high-quality learning experience.
This process has included repurposing large parts of the University's estate to create more teaching space for smaller, socially distanced, face-to-face tuition, and the investment in innovative delivery of teaching and learning materials to students has required additional cost.
In addition, a full audit and review of the University's support services took place which graded the online accessibility of professional and academic support services and led to several advancements:
- Student Wellbeing Services are fully available online
- Additional digital resources have been made available for Personal Academic Tutors
- Personal College Advisors are based in all College Student Centre teams and available to contact remotely. This role builds upon existing services and relationships, to provide support students to access resources and resolve any issues affecting their study
- The Centre for Student Life has transitioned all services to provide digital and remote support
- The Union of Students support services are accessible via Skype and Teams
- Students who notified the University regarding access to required resources to study online have received laptops and internet data packages to ensure they can continue to engage in their academic studies
- Invested in numerous enhancements to our remote learning offering including allowing remote access to specialist PC and Apple suites, providing software for home use, providing a better student experience for submission of large assignments that would normally occur on campus, and providing a richer remote experience through remote simulation labs or learning tools
- On campus, a number of active learning spaces were also upgraded with a new wireless presentation technology to allow students to collaborate easily in class without the need to present at the front of the room, helping to limit movement and keep students safe
In addition to the above, the University also moved quickly to allow students to be released from their Halls contracts in summer 2020 to mitigate against student hardship during lockdown, and subsequently adopted a flexible approach to enable students to move back into accommodation at a time that was suitable for them.
Vicky Hossack, Chief Executive Officer of the University's Union of Students, said: "The Union of Students continues to work closely with the University to maintain efforts towards providing all students with a value for money student experience throughout the pandemic.
"We recognise there has been considerable investment in digital infrastructure that supports learning and teaching and allows access to vital support services, including the financing of an institution-wide Peer Assisted Learning scheme and the design and implementation of a virtual induction for all new students that started University in September 2020."
The Value for Money Advisory Group will hold a key role in reviewing and evaluating decisions taken by the University in response to Covid-19, in order to ensure that students continue to derive a value for money student experience through this period."
The Union of Students
Last academic year, the Union of Students received a 10% uplift to the block grant from the University which it invested towards extending key services and activities for students including:
- Delivered high quality, face-to-face training for more 320 Union sports and society committee members
- Delivered a variety of trips that appealed to a number of student groups. Trips within the UK included Blackpool, Liverpool and London, and linked into national campaigns such as Pride and LGBT+ History Month
- Carried out a complete restructure of the 'Student Action' service and have created an online volunteer platform, hosted on the Union website, which is currently dedicated to linking the student body to the local community for one-off volunteer projects
- Established three new social sport sessions delivered by student sport clubs - lacrosse, netball and volleyball - to complement the existing competitive sports offer which enables students to represent the University in their chosen sport, at a national level
Craig Jones, Director of Finance, said: "Joining the University in the summer of 2020, I am delighted to have the opportunity to work alongside the Union of Students in looking at how we deliver value for money for students at the University of Derby.
"Our ambition is to seek to provide value in all the services we provide, and this Impact Report sets out where we have made improvements during the year. We will continue to work on this, with the Value for Money Advisory Group providing a helpful forum to engage on this topic."