The impact of student timetables and commuting on student satisfaction

Page, Nigel, Forster-Wilkins, Gary and Bonetzky, Mark (2021) The impact of student timetables and commuting on student satisfaction. New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences, 16(1), ISSN (online) 2051-3615


Widening participation has encouraged students from a diverse range of backgrounds into university with more students commuting (many being Black and Minority Ethnic, BME). Since timetabling forms a major way by which students identify and interact with their learning environment understanding its influence is important. This project aimed to identify the experiences of students with their timetables using questionnaires and focus groups to determine perceptions and relationship to travel to university by ethnicity, gender, age and level of study. Five hundred and fifty students participated across levels 4 to 6 at Kingston University. There was a strong negative correlation between travel time and ‘the timetable works efficiently for me’ (Question 16, National Student Survey). Students from ethnic backgrounds on average were found to travel double the distances of their White counterparts to get to university. In addition, timetable satisfaction was also reflected in the modes of transport used and in perceptions of expected timetabled hours (i.e., whether too many or too few hours scheduled) based on travel times. We identified a number of inclusive priorities to help improve the timetable for student groups including having later starts to days and one guaranteed day free per week. In addition, the COVID-19 world has temporarily reduced the need for most students to commute and can be regarded as a positive disruptor for future commuting students. Certainly, it will be important to find a new balance in applying the identified priorities and the realised alternative COVID-19 teaching practices for creating more inclusive, flexible and blended learning environments to achieve the ultimate student-centred timetable.

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