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Warwick’s problems run far deeper than dropping out of the top ten

I’d be lying if I said Warwick University’s league table ranking didn’t have some part in my eventual decision to make it my firm choice back in 2015. While the course appeared brilliant and the campus was lovely, something about saying I went to a UK top 10 university was quietly satisfying. I am sure I am not alone in that feeling. In accordance with the Complete University Guide, Warwick were ranked 7th overall in the 2016 league table. In the time I have been here, a short three years, we are now down to 12th. And considering how much Warwick have let down their student-body within those three years, I am honestly relatively shocked we have not fallen further.

We can assume that this drop in ranking is largely down to the huge decline in student satisfaction (our performances in Research Quality have remained the same, and Graduate Prospects have gone up three places). Last year Warwick ranked 25th overall for student satisfaction – this year we have dropped a dismal 38 places to 63rd. For comparison, our neighbour Coventry University, rank 53rd in the 2020 league tables overall, but are 20th for student satisfaction. One doesn’t have to look far as to why our student satisfaction levels have declined in such a dramatic manner.

Primarily, the group chat and the subsequent storm of miscommunications that followed in regard to the punishments of those involved. The victims, as well as the wider student body of Warwick, still have no explanation from the University as to why it was appropriate for those involved to have their punishments shortened so considerably.

While to varying degrees of severity, the issues surmount, and it seems unlikely that any student currently on campus will not have been affected by one or more of the problems mentioned

National news coverage ensured and it appeared to be the beginning of a downward spiral for Warwick. More stories followed, including the University allowing a student found guilty of sexual misconduct to represent the University in a Varsity sports match. While completely abhorrent, what was truly shocking was that, following the extremely poor handling of the group chat, no one seemed too shocked that the University had allowed this to happen.

Another story was released recently, reporting on Warwick’s incompetence in regard to their extremely late release of the Summer exam timetable, leaving some students with less than a month to revise in accordance to the order of their exams. Students have still received no information as to why this was the case. A trend emerges with these problems, one which sees the University deem it unnecessary to offer an explanation regarding their mis-handlings to those directly affected.

While to varying degrees of severity, the issues surmount, and it seems unlikely that any student currently on campus will not have been affected by one or more of the problems mentioned. For third term, a time often full of celebration, the atmosphere on campus has never seemed more frustrated and fed-up. Students are not satisfied with the University, and have made this evident.

Warwick need to act quickly if they hope to redeem themselves in the eyes of their current students and repair a very damaged relationship with their student body. Primarily, learning from their mistakes. Particularly in regard to what will not be tolerated by their student body, and how they can handle any similar occurrences in the future, such as the exam timetable delays that simply required active communication between the institution and it’s student body.

The simple suggestions of a third-year student cannot hope to fix the damage the University has inflicted on their own reputation or indeed the welfare of some of its students, but it might be a start

One suggestion would be, in light of the severity of the current issues, that we need better balance from the University in regard to giving and receiving information. I would suggest at the very least a fortnightly email from a University representative. Students need clarity as to what the issues they face are and what exactly the University intend to do about them. A termly ‘welcome back’ from Vice-Chancellor Stuart Croft is simply no longer enough.

On a more basic level, students have also been left to their own conclusions in regard to the constant construction work on campus. Many were surprised to return from Easter break with the central campus being entirely closed off, with no news as to whether this will be disruptive during the exam season. Another small factor that contributes to the institutions’ immense lack of clarity or concern for their own students.

If the University wish to further demonstrate that they are taking their students’ welfare seriously, an email reporting the University’s investments would also not go amiss. For example, a published review on how much is currently being invested in student wellbeing services, student leisure, and study spaces, and where further investment will be going in the future.

We also need more frequent methods of providing the University with feedback. While the complaint system is being externally reviewed, if Warwick want to further repair their relationship with students, they should request general feedback about the University experience at the end of every term, in the form of an optional survey. This would potentially prevent minor issues from snow-balling, only to be revealed in the end of year surveys at which point the damage is usually already done. This also allows students the opportunity to present their thoughts in a more casual manner, rather than seeking out feedback and complaint forms purely for the negative.

The simple suggestions of a third-year student cannot hope to fix the damage the University has inflicted on their own reputation or indeed the welfare of some of its students, but it might be a start. Communication between the University and its students.

Simply put, while reputation is not everything, it is where most people first think to look, and currently Warwick has done neither itself nor its students any favours in this regard

To have trusted and invested so greatly in an institution, one with a once-impeccable reputation, I am shocked at the University in the way they have let so many of their student-body down. Attending University is a unique investment. Not only do we invest money to be here, but have spent years of education and dedication to earn our place here. For the majority of us, we will be in debt for a huge portion of our lives as result of tuition and maintenance fee costs. It is enough to make anyone consider greatly what institution they wish to trust with their education, safety, wellbeing, and sense of community for a number of years.

While we have to question whether League Tables and rankings actually matter, I know from a personal perspective it is something that is not taken lightly. Within the Complete University Guide, they consider all factors that make a University worth attending, to ignore it seems inadvisable. And as Warwick have fallen from 7th to 12th in my time here, if I was now considering attending Warwick in the next academic year, I would now definitely think twice. Simply put, while reputation is not everything, it is where most people first think to look, and currently Warwick has done neither itself nor its students any favours in this regard. We all now attend a University of a considerably lower reputation, and the University must take responsibility.

Personally, I approach the end of my experience at Warwick with a very bittersweet outlook. While my department have been fantastic in many regards, and I have made some incredible friends here, the institution itself has proven to be incompetent on some of the most basic levels. While Warwick’s reputation is currently at a low point, I hate to think it is irredeemable and that they cannot learn from their mistakes. In the meantime however, I can honestly say that when I eventually get my degree handed to me, a certificate that I have been working for far longer than the three years I have been here, the name ‘Warwick University’ will not be the statement of pride that it once was to me.

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