This article was previously published on The Pie News.

Isolation and mental health issues are not new concerns for students, but the pandemic has brought them into sharp focus.

So why are so many university rankings continuing to only focus on academic excellence? There is an obvious, unassailable link between wellbeing and academic success.

If league tables are to have continued relevance and enable informed decision making, they need to investigate performance across the whole student experience. And they must consult the right people – students.

The student voice is the only perspective that matters in the Studyportals’ Global Student Satisfaction Awards, where students give feedback on pastoral support along with other non-academic
issues, which this year will include COVID crisis management and online learning.


Another recent Studyportals survey asked students how they want wellbeing support to be delivered. More than 75% of respondents preferred one-to-one support, signalling that universities will need a much higher level of resources.

During the pandemic almost 50% of students said that they hadn’t sought any help at all. This worrying statistic is in line with others that revealed a drop in support-seeking across the whole population, at a time when we’ve needed it the most.


So how can support transform to reach greater numbers? Ainslie Moore, Deputy Director of International Programmes and Partnerships at the University of Auckland – the Global Student Satisfaction Awards winner in the Diversity category in 2019 – found their existing Studybuddy programme invaluable.

She told us: “It’s an easy way for students to talk through everyday things, especially for international students, who pair up with a bilingual buddy. It serves as a low-key way to explore issues related to mental health once they feel comfortable, then we can layer in further support as needed.”

To connect with students who aren’t used to seeking help, universities need to circumvent a variety of reasons causing resistance.

Moore explains: “By labelling support as ‘health and wellbeing’ and constantly communicating availability, we were able to reach more students.

“They’re encouraged to assess wellbeing with activities such as yoga and meditation, allowing them to take responsibility for their own self-care without any stigma. From there, it’s easier to ask for further help if they need it.”

How far are most universities from the ideal package of support?

Emily Shead has a unique three-way perspective on wellbeing provision afforded by student life, as a PR agency employee and as a founder of non-profit organisation, Academus.

“One of the biggest issues that university students face right now is the disconnect between themselves and their universities. Whilst universities outwardly project a duty of care, this often falls short of the mark,” she says.

“University wellbeing programmes are decentralised, disorganised and often ineffective. In short, they’re not fit for purpose and insufficient to protect students.”

Shead believes that for this situation to improve, universities need to start investing in large-scale welfare teams that can provide support to the entire student body.

At present, many personal tutors are given basic pastoral training, leaving them unequipped to deal with the full spectrum of issues.

“Support must be well-strategised rather than merged under the umbrella of ‘welfare services’,” Shead continues.

“If universities are clearly advertising the services they offer to students, they can bid for funding to provide the best care possible.”

Universities must work towards centralised support systems combined with innovative practices.

Then, it becomes easier to see how the education sector can build a safety net that contributes to the maintenance of good mental health throughout an individual’s lifetime.

Living in unprecedented, uncertain times it must be flexible, comprehensive support that can withstand anything the world throws at it.


There’s still time for universities to gather student feedback for this year’s Global Student Satisfaction Awards. Check this page for more information and ready-to-share social media posts. The closing date for reviews is 31 August 2021.



The Global Student Satisfaction Awards 2023 are based on university reviews written by Studyportal’s community and partner study associations. In the reviews, students can rate their study experience on a scale from 1 (lowest rating) to 5 (highest rating) by assessing their satisfaction in eight categories:

  1. Overall Satisfaction
  2. Student-Teacher Interaction
  3. Quality of Student Life
  4. Career Development
  5. Student Diversity
  6. Admission Process
  7. Online Classroom Experience

Additionally, students can describe their argument on the score they have given in their review.


  • There are three regional winners for each of the above-mentioned categories: Americas (North and South America), EMEA (Europe, The Middle East and Africa), and APAC (Asia Pacific). From these regions, one worldwide winner is chosen.
  • A winning university can be mentioned in only one category, to create a more diversified selection of participants who will receive the award.
  • The university with the highest student satisfaction rating is chosen to become the representation of the best university according to the student’s opinion.
  • Only universities with English taught programmes hosted in Studyportals’ websites can participate. Due to the only possibility for Studyportals to map student reviews with correspondent universities.

Review Count

At Studyportals, students can share their study experience scores through its specialised review collection service. The collected reviews will be used by Studyportals to analyse the collected reviews to determine the university winners in each category.

  • To participate in the awards, universities need to have collected at least 10 reviews except for “Overall Satisfaction” category, which is defined with at least 30 reviews
  • The reviews from sub-organisations (such as departments or faculties) are added to their respective parent organisations.
  • The graduation date of the students submitting the reviews should be on or after 01/01/2018 (i.e. either enrolled students or fresh alumni), and the initiation date should not be older than the date of graduation.
  • There is no distinction made between local and international students.
  • In the “Admission Process” category, where reviews collected through student organisation such as ESN are not taken into account for the reason being that there’s a high population of exchange students; thus they may not have experienced the regular admission process.


  • Universities are advised to encourage students to leave a review, yet under no circumstances should they compensate the reviewers.
  • The reviews are collected with the help of Studyportals’ community and international student organisations such as ESN. Checks are in place to identify false reviews.
  • In case fraudulent behaviour is detected, Studyportals will check for their validity (e.g. manual checks, email check, contact to the reviewer).


  • All universities which receive above 4.0 overall score will win medals of honour in their respective categories.
  • The digital medals will available to universities for use and referred to their university pages at Studyportals.


Global Student Satisfaction Awards 2023 will award universities for excellence in the following categories:

Best University

  • Question asked to students: “How would you rate your overall study experience?”

Student-teacher interaction

  • Question asked to students: “How helpful, engaged and interested were your teachers with you? How easy was it for you to interact with them, during or after class?”

Life quality of students

  • Question asked to students: “How was your everyday life? Especially when thinking about the city where you lived, did it satisfy your needs and expectations?”

Career development

  • Question asked to students: “Did the university provide support for your career development (E.g. extracurricular courses, workshops and conferences, help in finding internships)?”

Student diversity

  • Question asked to students: “How diverse/friendly was the atmosphere at your university (E.g. different countries, cultures, religions, age, gender, special needs, etc.)?”

Admission process

  • Question asked to students: “How simple was it to apply to your programme? Was the information that you found on the website clear enough? Did you get support from the university staff?”

Online classroom experience

  • Question asked to students: “How well did your university change education to online? (e.g. format, content, interaction, quality of online classes)”

* All Studyportals questions are based on star ratings (1 to 5).

The Report

The Global Student Satisfaction 2021 Report represents an in-depth analysis of student experience, what they are content with, and where they would like to see improvements. The report will allow higher education professionals and industry experts to discover which are the most highly rated regions, as well as the top countries for student satisfaction.  

Access the 2021 Report >

Discover the previous editions >

The Report

The Global Student Satisfaction 2019 Report represents an in-depth analysis of student experience, what they are content with, and where they would like to see improvements. The report will slice the results by country, allowing higher education professionals and industry experts to discover which are the most highly rated universities globally, per region, as well as the top universities for student satisfaction in each country.  

Access the report >

Discover the previous editions >