- Highest participation rate to date for national StudentSurvey.ie, with 44,707 students sharing their experience of higher education.
- National report presents pre-COVID-19 baseline data for first year students’ experience (2018-2020) and comparison with experience of first year students in 2020-2021 will follow in 2021.
- StudentSurvey.ie National Report 2020 launched as part of Empowerment and Partnership in Student Engagement, a collaborative conference organised by StudentSurvey.ie, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) and the National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP).
In 2020, 44,707 first year undergraduate students, final year undergraduate students and students on taught postgraduate programmes took part in StudentSurvey.ie (the Irish Survey of Student Engagement; Suirbhé na hÉireann ar Rannpháirtíocht na Mac Léinn) that ran in 26 higher education institutions in February and March.
The StudentSurvey.ie National Report 2020 was launched at Empowerment and Partnership in Student Engagement, a significant virtual event organised in collaboration with QQI and NStEP. The conference explored interrelated concepts and priorities of student engagement, including empowering students and staff to collaborate and to co-create impact in enhancement, and embedding partnership in quality assurance and enhancement processes.
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Some highlighted results from StudentSurvey.ie 2020
- 44% of all respondents believed that their experience at their institution contributed to their knowledge, skills, and personal development in being an informed and active citizen (societal/ political/ community).
- 56% of all respondents tried to better understand someone else’s views by imagining how an issue looks from their perspective.
- 71% of all respondents believed that lecturers/teaching staff clearly explained course goals and requirements.
- 58% of all respondents believed that their institution emphasised providing support to help students succeed academically.
- 41% of all respondents blended academic learning with workplace experience.
- 49% of all respondents prepared for exams by discussing or working through course material with other students.
- 51% of all respondents believed that their institution emphasised providing support for their overall well-being (recreation, health care, counselling, etc.).
- 41% of all respondents indicated as excellent the quality of interactions with academic staff.
- 80% of all respondents reported that they would evaluate their entire educational experience at their institution as good/ excellent.
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 StudentSurvey.ie 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 StudentSurvey.ie National Report 2020 focused on the StudentSurvey.ie 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 StudentSurvey.ie 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, StudentSurvey.ie 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%).
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. Since its introduction, the survey has captured feedback from over 245,000 students.
The unprecedented change brought about by the COVID-19 global crisis has been far-reaching. Now more than ever, feedback from this national survey is needed from students navigating this landscape. To meet this need, StudentSurvey.ie 2021 fieldwork is scheduled to run in February-March 2021, in keeping with the normal scheduling of previous years.
PGR StudentSurvey.ie (Irish Survey of Student Engagement for Postgraduate Research Students; Suirbhé na hÉireann ar Rannpháirtíocht na Mac Léinn do Mhic Léinn Taighde Iarchéime) is also scheduled to run in February-March 2021. All PhD students and Masters by Research students in participating institutions will be invited to respond. This survey now runs on a biennial survey fieldwork cycle; therefore, it is all the more important that these students participate in 2021.