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Teacher training college highly rated in survey



The specialist college that trains teachers for Catholic schools has some of the happiest students.

Almost every final year student at St Mary's University College said they were satisfied with the quality of their course.

The National Student Survey (NSS) found 93 per cent at St Mary's enjoyed their overall university experience - the third highest rating of any institution.

The findings published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England were based on answers from students at 154 universities and 99 further education colleges across the UK.

Students at Brighton and Sussex Medical School were the happiest, with a satisfaction rate of 95 per cent, followed by Cambridge University with 94.

Both Queen's University Belfast and Stranmillis University College had ratings of 83 while the University of Ulster was 82.

St Mary's, on Falls Road in Belfast, has been training classroom staff for 110 years. In recent years has extended its provision to include non-teaching degree courses in Liberal Arts.

Principal Professor Peter Finn said the college's exceptional outcome in the survey was a tribute to the way its trustees, governors, staff and students were so well engaged with the college mission.

"Our purpose is to make a distinctive contribution of service and excellence, in the Catholic tradition, to higher education in Northern Ireland and we have been doing that for 110 years at the Falls Road campus," Prof Finn said.

"The college's distinctiveness is manifest in many ways: institutional autonomy, a specialisation in teacher education and the Liberal Arts; an ethos and identity which emphasises excellence and pastoral care; a mutually beneficial engagement with the local community; academic integration with Queen's University and a high level of commitment to international student mobility.

"To be in the same league as Cambridge and Oxford in terms of student satisfaction clearly enhances our attractiveness for students."

St Mary’s is a member of the London based higher education representative organisation GuildHE.

Chief executive Andy Westwood said he was pleased that so many GuildHE institutions continued to see improvements in overall student satisfaction.

"Small institutions like St Mary's University College Belfast and Harper Adams University College are among the highest-scoring institutions, with consumer satisfaction ratings that would be the envy of the commercial sector," he said.

"This shows that students value education on a human scale, and that smaller and teaching-focused institutions, which have always had student needs at the heart of their mission, provide an excellent student experience in a diverse sector."

The Open University also scored highly with a rating of 93 per cent.

Of the respondents, 94 per cent said their course was intellectually stimulating, 92 per cent received detailed comments on work and 83 per cent felt that feedback helped clarify elements they did not understand.

Director of The Open University in Ireland, John D'Arcy said he was delighted that students responded so positively to OU's flexible and high quality approach to higher education.