Student involvement is one way for departments to improve outcomes and evaluation. The Economics Network helps in the following ways:
Student surveys (including NSS)
Since 2001 the Network has undertaken biennial student surveys, student focus groups and alumni surveys to understand the economics students’ experience both nationally and at a departmental level. Five student surveys and two alumni surveys have been undertaken since 2001 with a total of over 10,000 respondents. Individual confidential reports are returned to departments to support internal planning and provide more detail to National Student Survey results.
“I’m glad you are taking the time to think of our feelings, Economics is an important subject and I hope you can use this to improve the quality of the learning for future student.” (Student, student survey 2006)
“Many thanks for sending us the results of the survey. Very interesting and useful material and I am sure it will help in our revalidation of the Economics programme this year.” (Head of Department, 2010)
“The survey results will be extremely useful for us, and we will certainly be incorporating these findings into our review.” (Head of Department, 2010)
We have also analysed NSS results for economics as a discipline and produced a short report to support planning.
Student focus group scheme
In 2010 the Economics Network launched a student focus group scheme, exploring issues from the Economics Network survey as well as the NSS. Each focus group has explored issues relevant to the specific department, including assessment and feedback, student engagement, and teaching and learning. A detailed report from the 2009/10 focus groups is available. Follow-up support, including departmental workshops, is planned.
“It [the student focus group] has already been exceptionally useful… there is an important and focused meeting of the department with School representatives on Thursday during which some of the themes which came up will be discussed.” (Key Contact, 2010)
“We have examined the data from three sources: the NSS, the Economics Network Student Survey, and the Economics Network Focus Group. Together these provide a body of evidence to identify where the key issues lie and motivate the discussion as to the way forward in addressing our students' concerns. The first step in this process is that we are hosting a workshop here …, supported by the Economics Network, to present this data and explore possible strategies for improving our assessment and feedback support.” (Associate, 2010)
The Economics Network runs two student websites, both sponsored by the Royal Economic Society.
Why Study Economics?, designed to encourage students to study economics at HE level, was launched in 2004. The site also helps students with the transition to higher education from school or college. Many of the site's resources have been created by economics undergraduates sharing their views and experiences through videos and diaries, and by economics graduates who reflect on their degree and its impact on their careers.
“What is particularly good is the site – Why study economics? – I thought that was really colourful and it’s a great design for students so we’ve put a link to that from our blackboard site. We recommend the use of the site to students.” (Lecturer, External Evaluator report, 2007)
Studying Economics, developed almost entirely by students, for students, was launched in September 2009. The website is managed by our student placement officer and directly supports undergraduate study of economics. The site's resources include study tips, information on module choices, support in writing a dissertation, careers information, guidance on being a student representative on staff-student committees, help in setting up a student economics society, information on work experience and placements and sources for data and research.
Student essay competition
The Economics Network has run an annual student competition since 2005, which provides another opportunity for economics students to voice the opinions on their learning experiences. In 2008/9 there were 52 entrants who addressed the question ‘How would you make difficult economics easier to learn?’ In 2009/10, 25 students answered 'How is your degree preparing you for life?': we have summarised the main themes of their essays.
“I liked the idea of being able contribute to the successful teaching of economics, and thus providing a student's viewpoint of what makes the best learning experience in economics and having it recognised seemed an attractive prospect”. (Student Competition winner, 2008)