“Do You Feel Your Student Satisfaction Rising?”

Asked Minouche Shafik during a student-staff interaction session. I hadn’t felt particularly different since 1st year- I’ve generally had a wonderful time in LSE. So when she popped the question to me, I stood silent for a while, taking the time to genuinely introspect. I finally told her that it has, but it was never low. While I am also aware that my experience is not shared by all, I can’t help but wonder if students in LSE have had truly such a terrible time that we placed our school almost at the bottom of the overall satisfaction rankings. With constant emails to complete the NSS survey, it is a good time to hit the pause button and reflect on where exactly our satisfaction levels lie (pun intended).

I am acutely aware that our University has its flaws. Its lapses in catering to student needs were what drove me to run for a position on the Court of Governors. Director Shafik was accurate to point out in her first student-only forum that much of our grievances were due to administrative discrepancies. Constant timetabling issues, exams schedules and release of results being met with delays and technical difficulties, – difficulties all of us have faced, and continued to face year after year. These are issues that have been identified, have concrete solutions and are undergoing reform.

There are other more deeply seated issues such as variation in departmental standards and procedures, appropriate levels of contact time with quality teachers, lack of clear communication channels between the students, SU, staff and administration. However, what is most disturbing for me is the lack of sufficient student engagement in issues related to LSE itself. Save for a few individuals, who already usually spend most of their time in the SU building, much of the 9,000-strong student body remains largely disengaged with the school, its politics, and in extension our own well-being- that is the most harrowing and pertinent issue we need to address.

There have been other articles in the Beaver critiquing and defending the school’s various aspects and initiatives, ranging from the effectiveness of the SU to LSE100. However, little has been done to end the belief that LSE is a depressing institution. If most of the population were to think that LSE is a place where no one cares for you, where at the end of the day you only seek to get a degree so that you can get employed, that is exactly what you will take away from your education. If you were to complain about not having enough water fountains in the library or microwaves on campus, and the opportunity to have these items manifests itself in LSESU UGMs, then for your own sakes please vote in them! But, no. We chose to remain disengaged. We chose to not raise our own satisfaction levels. The 250 quorum required to pass a motion is a meagre 3% of the student population, and our failing to achieve that target, to me, seems an absolute pity. You may point out that the SU needs to make UGMs more engaging or that installing basic facilities in the school should not be requiring motions to be passed. They should be taken up by the school as a basic provision and I agree with you. However, that is a discussion for another time, and we have to make best with what we currently have, instead of letting such opportunities slip by.

I believe the true reason for why our satisfaction levels have been low, is ourselves. The greatest change we need to achieve is in our attitude. To stop being passive and reinforcing each other’s false beliefs that the school does not care about you and there is nothing you can do, when in reality you are not willing to do it yourself. To instead to open our eyes and hearts to the possibilities and programs the school and our curriculums offer. If we are to critically think about it, the issues the school faces are not drastically different from that faced by many other universities, nor are they extremely crippling. Can these issues be improved? Yes. Are they so immense that we believe ourselves to be amongst the least happy students in the country? No! In fact, unlike other universities, we benefit from leading academics, great diversity in campaigns, causes, people and, opportunities for personal development. No one is going to hold your hand through all these experiences and spoon-feed you examination answers. Part of being in University is coming to terms with such reality and making the world work for you.

Given the energy and momentum for change, I believe the school will be able to act on its promises and work towards improving student well-being. What the institution now needs, is for its students to rise up and uphold their end of the bargain. To use the Comments, Compliments and Concerns post-boxes, to engage your academics, your SSLC reps, your SU Officers with constructive feedback, and to participate and vote in the upcoming Lent Term elections. Tasks that require a little more initiative, but will ultimately serve our own interests.

Call me overly optimistic or too easily satisfied, but I have had an amazing time at the LSE and if given the opportunity to study anywhere else in the world again, I will still choose to do my exact degree. My satisfaction levels are not high because of the free hoodies my department provides or the public events I am able to attend- they are high because I choose them to be. Oftentimes, rather than complain about what we don’t have, I believe we should endeavour to make the best of what we have, whilst campaigning to improve the situation for future generations. Initially, I felt that LSE lacked a ‘campus feel’ and the construction work as a nuisance. Now, I’ve come to appreciate that being cramped up is what allows me to bump more frequently into all my favourite people in the world. Sometimes, there is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.

I’ve 5 weeks left in my undergraduate experience; there’s so many things I want to do, moments to experience and happiness to share. I hope my LSE peers share my motivation in moving beyond ‘Understanding the Causes of Things’ and enacting the changes they want to see. I hope they too can take ownership of their student experience, and feel their satisfaction levels rise.

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2 Comments

  1. Great article. I’m doing my second degree at LSE, and I still struggle to see what sort of things are sufficiently serious for the university to deserve to land right at the bottom of the tables. Most unis in the UK are like this. Maybe it’s the higher % of non-UK students who have higher expectations? Besides, on a purely factual point, students shouldn’t be using administrative maladies to blame the quality of academic teaching in their department.

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