Poor student satisfaction is why King’s will never do well in league tables

It seems nobody actually likes studying here

If you’re a King’s student, you’ll know that we have an odd relationship with university league tables. One moment you’ll be sitting there all smug after reading that King’s is in the global top 20 universities, the next you’re confused as to why Surrey and UEA are lauding it up in the top 20 in the country while we sit at a meagre 21.

This inconsistency isn’t meaningless and random though. There’s order in the chaos, and a little digging into the methodologies of some of these rankings reveals plenty. It turns out (who knew?) that King’s scores awfully when it comes to student satisfaction. It’s not just bad, it’s disgraceful.

This should be a fantastic place to study, so why doesn’t it feel like it?

Luckily, international rankings don’t care. We famously do well in the QS Worldwide University Rankings where this year we were ranked fifth in the country. Their criteria include academic reputation (King’s scores 95.2 per cent), international faculty (95.4 per cent), employer reputation (95.9 per cent) and international students (98.2 per cent). Nowhere throughout the QS methodology does student satisfaction feature.

Compared to us, LSE came eighth in the country (though dominated in the social sciences… obviously. I mean when you only do one thing you should bloody well hope you’re good at it), UCL came third and Imperial fourth.

You probably saw the Times Higher Education (THE) European rankings recently. King’s placed an admirable seventh in the UK. LSE came fifth, and UCL fourth. Again, the European rankings’ criteria included teaching standards, international scores, research and citations – in all of which King’s kicks ass. We can blame our mere seventh place on an average “industry income” score. I don’t know what that means either.

Unlike these rankings, domestic rankings use student satisfaction in their scoring system. On the surface, this is probably a good thing. The problem for King’s is that our student satisfaction is so low that our world-class teaching/academic/employability scores (all of which put us consistently in the top five) are essentially worth shit.

For example, the Complete University Guide ranked us 21st (out of 127 universities). In this table, King’s beats all the universities ranked above it (except Oxbridge, LSE and Imperial) in “quality”, and beats all universities ranked above it (except Oxbridge and Imperial) in “prospects”. But our student satisfaction rating (3.91) was third from bottom in the whole league table. And, unlike with LSE, where their tragically high UCAS entry tariff score (518) can rescue them from their also-low student satisfaction, King’s only ranks 15th in UCAS entry scores (with a score of 462).

The futility of the King’s student satisfaction rating is best illustrated by The Guardian, which places enormous emphasis on student satisfaction. Despite our incredibly high “power ranking” (academic reputation, teaching, research, etc.), where we come 7th in the UK, both student satisfaction and amount spent per student are abysmally low.

Something is clearly amiss. World-class research and access to the brightest minds in the world, in the world’s best city, and yet none of the students at King’s rate being at King’s? I believe this is partially because we rarely feel like we’re working with our university, but instead it can feel like we’re battling against them. It’s no secret that King’s is terribly administered.

Uncompromising department staff who are unwilling to do anything that might go above and beyond the rules about module changes, timetable troubles and seminar problems that they themselves have made along with frequent black-outs on KEATS mean we’re usually left floundering alone.

The feeling that we are members of an organisation that’s 100 per cent dedicated to the goal of education is simply lacking at King’s. Being in London might play a part (UCL and LSE, too, suffer low student satisfaction), but Imperial seem to get away with it – so why can’t we? Maybe it’s something to do with leaving UoL, but I doubt it.

Also, other than Oxford, King’s probably has the country’s biggest inferiority complex. If we ever want to beat UCL at anything other than Varsity, King’s needs to make its students feel like they’re welcome, not that they’re an inconvenience.

Unfortunately, these rigid, bureaucratic nightmares mean student satisfaction isn’t a problem that’s going away any time soon. Until it does, we’ll never do as well as we should in the league tables.

Also, the Strand building is ugly.