Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

US Liberal Arts Colleges 'Best for Teaching Satisfaction'

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

US Liberal Arts Colleges 'Best for Teaching Satisfaction'

Article excerpt

Small institutions perform well in Times Higher Education's US student survey. Ellie Bothwell writes

It is a long-held belief that liberal arts education, characterised by a focus on undergraduate teaching, multidisciplinary study, low numbers of students and small class sizes, can provide a better student experience than other types of universities, and this view has now been backed up by a Times Higher Education survey of 100,000 students at US universities.

Liberal arts students are generally more satisfied with the teaching at their institution, with students in this cohort more likely to say that they feel challenged, that there are plenty of opportunities for collaborative learning with other students and interaction with staff, and that their university fully supports critical thinking and reflecting on, or making connections among, things they have learned, according to the study.

These students are also more satisfied with extracurricular activities, reporting that there are plenty of opportunities for social engagement, such as joining student clubs or societies, organising social events and activities on campus and interacting with people in different courses or from different backgrounds.

Students at liberal arts colleges in the US are also slightly more likely to recommend their university to a friend and choose to go to their college again than students at other types of higher education institutions, the survey found.

For each survey question, students were asked to rate their university on a scale of one to 10, where zero represented no support and 10 represented being fully supported. When asked whether there are opportunities to interact with staff, for example, liberal arts students gave an average score of 9.16, while non-liberal arts students gave an average of 8.57 (see graphs opposite).

Student engagement

The strength of liberal arts colleges when it comes to student experience is a key finding from the inaugural Times Higher Education US Student Survey, which will form a major part of the methodology of a new THE and Wall Street Journal ranking of more than 1,000 US universities and colleges, published next week.

The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Ranking will also include student-focused metrics such as tuition fee debt, graduation rates and the diversity of campus communities, alongside academic indicators including reputation and research productivity.

Of the 100,000 students surveyed, 12,058 were at liberal arts colleges, of which 10,711 were private not-for-profit institutions. In total, 48,436 students were at private not-for-profit institutions and 46,708 were at public universities.

Adam Falk, president of Williams College, a private not-for-profit liberal arts college in Massachusetts, said there are just seven students to each faculty member at the institution, which allows "really close interaction between faculty and students". …

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