Executive Summary

First and foremost, we want to make use of the existing data to provide a multi-level evidence base to help answer burning questions about what affects student satisfaction and achievement, focusing on module, student and lecturer characteristics.

In an era where education is a major industry and UK HE faces financial pressure, student outcomes, satisfaction in particular, have become a crucial determinant of institutional survival and excellence. Student satisfaction is important for HE institutions; unfulfilled expectations are key to student withdrawal (Alridge & Rowley, 2001), university ratings are influenced by national student surveys and student feedback is often part of lecturers’ appraisal and promotion procedures. Yet, the underlying concepts and the links between them are highly contested. Despite its political and practical relevance, research aimed to understand the nature of student satisfaction and its links to learning outcomes is scattered and lacks a unifying framework.

As a second contribution of our project, we attempt to provide such a unifying framework. Drawing on Ohio State leadership styles (initiating structure, as task-oriented leader behaviour and consideration, as interpersonally-oriented leader behaviour) (Stogdill, 1965), we apply a leadership lens and build on the established relationship between goal setting and achievement (Locke & Latham, 2006). We introduce and test a framework which suggests that higher specificity, difficulty and attainability of module objectives leads to higher student achievement, with a stronger relationship when in-class leadership focuses on initiating-structure. In contrast, we argue that demonstrating interpersonal consideration for students, alongside lecturer features (e.g., gender, years of experience) will mainly predict student satisfaction with lecturer and module.