Celebrating success with the Faculty of Natural Sciences

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Posted on 17 August 2016

Last week, Keele University was ranked first (of broad-based universities) in the National Student Survey (NSS) for an outstanding third consecutive year, with Chemistry, Geology, Physical Geography and Environmental Science, Physics and Astrophysics ranking first in their respective subject tables. We spoke to representatives from the Faculty of Natural Sciences to find out why their students are the happiest in the country.

Dr Katherine Haxton, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, explains: “Staff work incredibly hard to provide excellent feedback, we have an open door policy so students can pop in when they’ve got problems and they get a lot of support in the final year with projects. We’ve got a really unique environment in which the students can get the best out of themselves”. Professor David Hoole, Head of School of Life Sciences, continued: “There is excellent support from staff, with a dynamic curriculum which reflects advances made within the life sciences, and with over a £10 million investment in infrastructure into our school, we can really engage research and teaching together in preparing life scientists for the future”.

Rob Jeffries, Professor of Astrophysics: “With excellent staff to student ratios, by the end of first year staff know students by name and as individuals. We have dedicated staff who are committed to teaching yet are all active with their own research. We take all student feedback really seriously and make changes to courses based on that; rapid, detailed feedback on students’ work has also been a priority”.

Unique opportunities through field trips also features highly in student’s feedback, and Dr Ian Oliver, Lecturer in Environmental Science, explains: “Students like the field work and deal with lots of real world problems. Students like the feedback they get on how to improve their marks and can improve based on that”. Dr Stuart Egan, Head of School for Geography, Geology and the Environment, continued: “It's down to the practical and hands on nature of Geology and our Environment courses, practical field courses and hands on experience. Field courses make our subjects distinctive and make a strong social atmosphere amongst group, and it’s a good way for students to get to know staff. Staff have an open door policy and students can see staff and access to personal tutor if they want advice or have issues”.

Peter Knight, Head of Geography Programmes at Keele, describes the family feeling within the Geography courses: “Once a student has visited Keele on an open day, they are already part of the Keele Geography family. We have dedicated staff with specific roles helping particular groups of students, including individual course directors and year tutors. Students are never unsure about who to see if they need advice. Field work and practical work also allows students to get to know staff personally and build strong professional relationships”.

Neil Turner, Acting Head of School of Computing and Mathematics: “Others have spoken about the teaching, the curriculum and the infrastructure, amongst other things, as being instrumental in achieving these excellent NSS scores. We must not, though, overlook the huge, positive impact on the student experience that comes from the teams of dedicated, caring administrative staff in the School Offices and also those providing technical support. Their efforts often go unnoticed and yet they do so much to help students throughout their time at Keele”.

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Natural Sciences Professor Jonathan Wastling added: “It’s a phenomenal achievement for the Faculty of Natural Sciences. It's a real pleasure to be part of a Faculty with these results, and it’s really down to the people on the ground and the really good leadership by all of the staff involved in our schools who give 100% to delivering a fantastic student experience”.