• Record participation in national StudentSurvey.ie, with over 40,000 students sharing their experience of higher education
  • National report shows higher levels of engagement among international students in Ireland
  • 27 institutions participated in the 2019 survey – Dublin Business School will participate for the first time in 2020

40,558 students on taught programmes and 2,721 postgraduate research (PGR) students took part in the 2019 StudentSurvey.ie (Irish Survey of Student Engagement) and PGR StudentSurvey.ie (Irish Survey of Student Engagement for Postgraduate Research Students) that ran in 27 higher education institutions across the country. With growing participation year-on-year, StudentSurvey.ie has even more potential to impact positive changes across Ireland’s higher education institutions. Since it was first piloted in 2013, the survey has captured feedback from over 200,000 students across a range of measures, including students’ academic, personal and social development.

Cover of Irish Survey of Student Engagement National Report 2019
Cover of Irish Survey of Student Engagement National Report 2019
Cover of Irish Survey of Student Engagement for Postgraduate Research Students National Report 2019
Cover of Irish Survey of Student Engagement for Postgraduate Research Students National Report 2019

Spotlight on International Students

With Brexit approaching, this year’s national report highlights international student engagement in our higher education system. The higher education sector as a whole has seen a significant increase in the number of international students here, in particular at postgraduate level. Since 2016, the size of the internationally domiciled student population invited to take the survey (i.e. first and final year students and taught postgraduate students) grew by 26.4% (11,406 in 2016 to 14,412 in 2019), considerably outstripping the 5.4% growth in the number of Irish domiciled students invited to take the survey. In 2017/2018, there were 2,524 students from the UK in Irish higher education institutions, 864 of which were from Northern Ireland. With uncertainty over Brexit and continued increase in competition for international student recruitment globally, this year’s report focuses attention on the differences in how internationally domiciled students experience higher education in Ireland.  

The report compared data from 2016 and 2019 surveys and found that, in general, internationally domiciled students responded positively about their experiences, even more strongly than Irish domiciled students.

  • International students reported significantly higher engagement in a number of indicators, including the quality of interactions with staff and the supportive environment at their institution.
  • Postgraduate research students from overseas reported a particularly high frequency and quality of engagement in personal development initiatives, such as career advice, placement and internship, and training in entrepreneurship and innovation.

These findings provide valuable insight, particularly in the context of Brexit, and suggest that higher education institutions in Ireland are already delivering an educational experience to internationally domiciled students of comparable quality to that experienced by Irish domiciled students.

One area of challenge highlighted by the report is that of student-to-student interaction. International students were less likely to report ‘excellent’ interactions with fellow students, and the results will prompt institutions to establish better opportunities for peer integration.

The survey shows that international students, in particular, have concerns about the quality of their interactions with other students, and this correlates with other data showing limited international student satisfaction with being able to make friends locally. In response to these findings, UCD has revamped its programme of support in relation to international student integration, with a refurbished UCD Global Lounge serving as the principal hub for activities and events designed to foster interactions between domestic and international students. In early 2019, UCD Global appointed a Global Experience Manager to lead on these initiatives.
Dr Douglas Proctor, Director of UCD Global
Reacting to student feedback we encourage our students to reach out and get to know our new international students as they can learn so much from each other. Academic staff at AIT complete cultural awareness training with support from the Learning and Teaching unit. We understand that our international students come from different backgrounds, and staff encourage and motivate them particularly during the sometimes difficult transition period of semester one on campus.
Mary Simpson, Director of International Affairs in AIT

What is the StudentSurvey.ie?

StudentSurvey.ie 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 Irish Survey of Student Engagement was the first national survey of its kind in Europe, although a number of countries have explored similar surveys since then.

StudentSurvey.ie and PGR StudentSurvey.ie have the power to improve the lived experience of current and future undergraduate and postgraduate students. This would contribute to an improved environment for all members of the higher education community. Considerable efforts have been made by staff and students to make the 2019 surveys a success and the next steps for the surveys are necessarily focused on similar efforts to interrogate and draw meaning from the results.
Dr Siobhán Nic Fhlannchadha, Project Manager for StudentSurvey.ie

As postgraduate research students typically have less day-to-day interaction with supervising staff than either taught postgraduate or undergraduate students, they have limited opportunity to provide feedback on their student experience. The survey is therefore an important exercise in terms of gathering insights from this student cohort. Some results from the survey for postgraduate research students include:

  • 66% of respondents are in receipt of a scholarship (including one which covers fees only), while 19% fund their own research degree studies.
  • Around 77% agreed that their ability to manage projects, communicate effectively to diverse audiences, and manage their own professional development had all developed.
  • Questions on Personal Outlook were introduced in 2019, following calls for their inclusion from PGR students who responded to the pilot in 2018. Around 73% of respondents reported being satisfied with their lives at the moment, though the percentage for satisfaction with work-life balance and knowing where to find someone to talk to about problems averaged around 50%.