As part of Empowerment and Partnership in Student Engagement - read more HERE - the National Report 2020 was launched by Kevin MacStravock (Union of Students in Ireland) and Dr Siobhán Nic Fhlannchadha ( Project Manager).

Some results from the National Report 2020 were presented, including Looking Deeper: What does data tell us about the factors most important for on-campus engagement in higher education?

We asked some current first year students to take a look at the results and to give us their impressions and experience. This is what they had to say... National Report 2020 Launch- First Year Experience National Report 2020 Launch- First Year Experience

If you missed Empowerment and Partnership in Student Engagement and the launch of the National Report 2020, you can watch it again below. 

Life for first years before and during the COVID-19 crisis

The public health measures put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic mean that first year undergraduate students who entered higher education in the 2020-2021 academic year are having a substantially different experience than their predecessors. The impact of public health guidance on the traditional on-campus experience is expected to be greatest for first year undergraduate students, the majority of whom will have had no other higher education experience.

All but five participating institutions had completed fieldwork for 2020 before the restrictions due to public health guidance related to COVID-19 were put in place and the pivot to emergency online delivery of teaching began. When interpreting the results for 2020, it is important to bear in mind that all questions require students to reflect on the academic year to date in its entirety, the majority of which would have been unaffected by COVID-19.

In the form of a “Looking Deeper” chapter, the National Report 2020 focused on the questions that closely relate to the experience of first year students in higher education in Ireland over the past three years. The goal was to establish a baseline for future comparisons, which will include comparisons with the first years in 2020-2021 in the National Report 2021. The investigation of first year students’ engagement focused on the factors that may be most affected by necessitated changes to the traditional on-campus higher education model, such as interaction with staff and other students, and support for students’ academic, civic and social engagement.

Any comparison of the engagement profile and practices of part-time and remote students in 2018-2020 with future students must consider that institutions are taking additional measures to facilitate the necessary remote and blended/ hybrid model in the current academic year. Nonetheless, represents a significant evidence base to consider previous first year undergraduate respondents’ experiences in higher education, especially in looking at differences between full-time students, part-time students, and students who studied remotely.

Full-time respondents reported much higher scores than part-time/ remote respondents for questions related to the extent to which respondents collaborate with their peers to solve problems or learn material, how they view their relationship with academic staff, and their perceptions of how much their higher education institution emphasises services and activities that support their learning and development. For example:

Part-time and especially remote respondents were much less likely to work collaboratively with other students. Nearly two in five (39%) respondents who studied remotely ‘never’ worked collaboratively with other students, while one in five (21%) part-time respondents ‘never’ did. Only 8% of full-time respondents ‘never’ worked with others.

Part-time and especially remote respondents were much less likely to have prepared for exams by working with their classmates. Over one-third (35%) of respondents who studied remotely ‘never’ prepared for exams with other students, while one-in-four (24%) part-time respondents ‘never’ did. This compares to 16% of full-time respondents who ‘never’ prepared for exams with others.

The majority (63%) of full-time respondents believed that their institution provided social opportunities ‘quite a bit’ or ‘very much’. By comparison, only 39% of part-time respondents believed this. These beliefs were lower again for respondents who studied remotely (32%).

Conversely, part-time/ remote respondents had higher indicator scores compared to those who studied full-time in their ratings of the quality of their interactions with other people on campus such as teaching faculty and other students.

36% of part-time respondents were most likely to rate their interactions with academic staff as ‘excellent’. This is followed by respondents who studied remotely (26%) and full-time respondents (18%).

Part-time respondents (43%) were most likely to rate their interactions with students as ‘excellent’. 34% of full-time respondents rated their interactions as ‘excellent’, followed by respondents who studied remotely (28%).

Click HERE to read and download the National Report 2020. 

Thank you to the first years students from UCC, LyIT, CIT and TU Dublin, whose contributions are included in this video. Thank you also to Kate Wood (Irish Universities Association) for editing and design of the video.