• More than 38,000 students share their experience of higher education in Ireland.
  • Number of participants in ISSE since the pilot in 2013 exceeds 163,000.
  • For the first time, Postgraduate Research Students participate in pilot survey

A total of 38,371 students enrolled on taught programmes took part in the 2018 Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) - a national survey of students in twenty-seven public higher education institutions. This amounted to 28% of the target population and an increase of 2,521 over 2017. The total responses since the survey was introduced in 2013 comes to more than 163,000. Undergraduate students (first years and final year) and students taking taught postgraduate programmes are invited to participate.

For the first time, the experiences of Postgraduate Research Students were gathered as part of a separate pilot national survey (ISSE-PGR). A total of 2,983 responses were recorded, amounting to a response rate of 32.5%. This is the first time that postgraduate research students have been asked to share their views of the student experience and this means that an invitation to provide feedback is now offered to all students at certain stages of their higher education. The first non-pilot study of postgraduate research students is scheduled to conduct fieldwork in the Spring of 2019.

The Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) is designed to ask students directly about their experiences of higher education. Student feedback provides institutions with valuable information to identify good practice that enhances the student experience and to prompt awareness of, and action on, any particular issues or challenges that affect students.  The results of the survey are intended to bring benefits to students and their institutions, and to inform national policy. When introduced in 2013, the ISSE was the first national survey of its kind in Europe, although a number of countries have explored similar surveys since then.

Students walking on campus

As part of the 2018 analysis for the established survey, responses from postgraduate taught (PGT) students over five years were explored. Highlights from this body of students include:

  • The majority of PGT students are enrolled in Master’s programmes
  • Almost one quarter of PGT students study Business Administration and Law
  • Education and Health and Welfare respondents are most likely to report high levels of workplace readiness. PGT respondents studying Arts and Humanities by contract report the lowest levels
  • More interaction with academic staff are reported by full-time students, students aged 23 and over, non-Irish students and those studying Master’s programmes
  • Arts and Humanities respondents are most likely to report interactions with academic staff while Information and Communications Technologies respondents are least likely     

Irish Survey of Student Engagement for Postgraduate Research Students

Some results from the new pilot survey for postgraduate research students include:

  • More than 81% responded positively in relation to their working space and library facilities;
  • The majority of students responded positively when asked about support, with 83% agreeing that supervisors provide appropriate levels of support.
  • The development and enhancement of research skills also emerged as an area of strength, with almost 88% of respondents agreeing that their skills in conducting research, their critical analysis, and evaluation skills have developed during their programmes.
  • More than 61% of respondents are in receipt of a scholarship, whereas 18% fund their own research degree studies
  • Students reported less positive experiences of induction, career development planning, and the provision of work placement and internship opportunities.

There are many examples of institutions using data from the ISSE to enhance the experiences of students”, stated Sean O’Reilly, Project Manager for the ISSE. “We expect that data from postgraduate research students will also become a valuable evidence-base and the report of the 2018 pilot will form a key prompt for further consultation with the postgraduate research community. “