The 2021 iteration of the awards threw up some “real surprises”, with some smaller institutions winning across the categories, Whatuni suggested.
Categories included Student Support, Diversity and Inclusion, Excellence in Digital Innovation and Enhanced Graduate Outcomes, with UCEN Manchester, Leeds Trinity University, University of Chester and Norland College crowned champions for each award, respectively.
With nominees and winners selected by students, Whatuni said the awards recognise institutions that have continued to excel in supporting their students throughout the pandemic.
“The past 12 months have been incredibly difficult for universities and their students, and the Whatuni Student Choice Awards are a chance to recognise those institutions who have excelled in supporting their students even in the face of a global pandemic,” said Simon Emmett CEO at Whatuni’s parent company IDP Connect.
On collecting reviews from students across the Whatuni university course comparison site for the awards, Whatuni found that 70% indicated their courses represented ‘value for money’.
The high level of overall student satisfaction is “a genuine vote of confidence, and will be welcome news to universities and colleges as they continue to battle the challenges posed by Covid-19”, Emmett added.
“Each of our winners and finalists have gone above and beyond in support of their students, and the calibre of the nominations we have received show the incredible creativity, resilience and innovation that exists within the higher education sector.”
Finalists for each category included:
Diversity & Inclusion: Leeds Trinity University (winner), Swansea University, Newcastle University
Enhanced Graduate Outcome: Norland College (winner), Teesside University, De Montfort University
Student Support: UCEN Manchester (winner), Middlesex University, Oxford Business College
Excellence in Digital Innovation: University of Chester (winner), Teesside University, De Montfort University
Each winning institution will receive £10,000 to be awarded to five eligible students as Whatuni Bursaries in 2021/22 (£2,000 each).
Previous winners of the international category at the awards have included Aberystwyth University, Swansea University and Glasgow University.
Universities that performed best were viewed by the student panel to be “putting the support of students at the heart of what they did”, IDP’s head of Brand and Content Angela Rapley highlighted.
A big majority of students suggesting their university had provided value for money over the last year was “striking”, Rapley continued.
“It was clear to the panel that a big majority of student respondents thought they had got good value for their money this year”
“We’ve seen a lot of stories in the media about things that went wrong during the initial stages of the pandemic – and it’s right that problems were called out where they exist.
“But it was clear to the panel that a big majority of student respondents thought they had got good value for their money this year, even with the undeniable chaos that the pandemic brought.
“The institutions successfully pivoted, creating and implementing fantastic initiatives to support and engage their students, which our awards are very happy to celebrate.”