Frequently Asked Questions
01: How can staff contribute?
Institutions are represented on various working groups and these staff are central to the partnership approach being taken to plan and implement the national Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE).
Other staff, including academic and student support services, have a significant role to play to encourage students to participate as well as in interpretation of anonymised results. The greatest benefit of the Irish Survey of Student Engagement will be achieved at institutional level where there is significant participation by students, thus increasing the reliability and value of overall results. Please consider using the promotional materials provided to remind students about the survey. Please mention the survey to students at suitable opportunities. The greatest incentive for students to take the time to participate is for them to appreciate that staff value the feedback given and seek to make use of the resulting data.
02: Why are we doing this survey?
We want to hear students’ views on their experience of higher education. Students have a major contribution to make in influencing the design of curricula, and in reviewing and providing feedback on their experience of college. Good student feedback will contribute to students experiencing an education that is relevant and responsive to their personal development and growth as fully engaged citizens within society. The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 report recommends that higher education institutions should put in place systems to capture feedback from students to inform institutional and programme management, as well as national policy.
03: Who is the target of the survey?
The target groups are first year and final year undergraduate students and taught postgraduate students. The survey will involve all of these students, whether full-time or part-time, on campus or distance / e-learning. [Note: A pilot national survey for postgraduate research students took place in 2018].
04: Are responses to questions confidential?
The survey is completely confidential. Students will follow a link in an invitation email or access the survey directly from this website. Any data that could be used to identiy individual students will be removed at the first opportunity. No student will be identifiable in any report from the national project.
05: How is the survey distributed?
The survey is distributed electronically and opens for responses from students in each institution during a specific three-week window in February – March. Students receive an individualised email from the external survey company which includes details of how to access the survey. In addition, the survey can be accessed directly from this website when it is open for each institution.
06: Who will see the data?
All of the anonymised data from your institution is available to your institution. Data collated from all participating institutions is analysed nationally and national results are published each year.
07: What happens when the survey is closed?
When the national survey window closes, response data will be matched to student contextual demographic data and results are presented in an agreed format. Data from individual institutions are returned to each participating institution and are also collated to form a national dataset which will be analysed to inform the national report.
08: Where is the data stored?
The data will be stored securely by the contracted technical system while the survey is open. When the survey has been completed, this data will be ‘cleaned’ to remove any possibility of identifying individuals and returned to the institution. A copy of the data will be stored securely, along with the equivalent data from other institutions, by the HEA.
09: How often will the survey(s) be conducted?
The 2013 national pilot informed a full national report. This report was used to develop and implement a “full” survey in 2014. The survey has been conducted annually since 2014 and it is planned to continue this pattern. Frequency will be reviewed periodically to ensure that the ISSE continues to meet the needs of institutions (students and staff) and other partners.
Evaluation of the new survey for postgraduate research students will determine how frequently such a survey will operate in future years.
10: What is the cost of administration of the survey for institutions?
The survey is funded by the HEA as a shared service for institutions under its remit. As such, there is no ‘direct cost’ for HEA-designated institutions. It is designed to minimise demands on individual institutions. Most planning, design, implementation and analysis will be undertaken centrally by the ISSE project. The main ‘cost’ at local level relates to staff time and any additional resources required to encourage students to participate. Other higher education institutions (not directly under the remit of the HEA) are welcome to discuss participation in the ISSE and the implications of such participation.
11: What are the benefits of this national survey?
Most institutions use student surveys at programme, course or institutional level. This survey represents the only opportunity for a comprehensive national survey, delivered consistently in each institution and comparable with international surveys such as the US National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Institutions can analyse data from their own students internally and also relative to all participating institutions nationally, similar institution-types, or international comparable data.
12: Is this an exit survey, or will students be answering this as they are attending the institution?
13: Is it the same questionnaire for all students?
The same questions are used for all students each year. The questions used in 2013, 2014 and 2015 have been revised for 2016 and beyond. After fieldwork in 2016, project partners will explore the potential of optional additional questions, based on local priorities or needs. [Note: A pilot survey for postgraduate research students took place in 2018. This survey uses a different question set designed to reflect the research experience. Evaluation of the national pilot will inform decisions on the question set to be used in future iterations].
14: How will the results of the survey be shared?
All institutions have access to their own data. Data will be collated nationally by the national survey project for analysis. Results of this analysis of national data has been published as part of a full report evaluating the 2013 national pilot. National reports will be published each year (around early November). .
15: Will the project provide any incentive for students to complete the survey?
An information note on the use of incentives has been circulated to participating institutions. This is intended to support consistency and transparency between institutions. The decision on whether or not to offer incentives, and the nature of these, is made at institutional level in discussion with the students’ union. Research internationally indicates that the most effective incentive is for students to see that their feedback is being acted upon.
16: Will there be a bilingual version of the survey?
The survey is available through Irish and English.