Students have a major contribution to make in ensuring the quality of higher education and training provided in Irish universities. Regular and structured student feedback on engagement with their studies and with broader university life, and on the quality and relevance of learning, teaching and other services, is encouraged and facilitated across the Irish university sector. Student representatives sit on the quality enhancement committees in each university. Students can also play an important role in influencing the design of curricula, and in reviewing and providing feedback on the use of these curricula.
Irish universities ensure student feedback through a number of aspects, for example: reviews of academic programmes and departments, as part of regular quality assurance procedures; undergraduate and postgraduate module evaluations; specific topics, e.g. first year experience, student counselling, career services; specific services, e.g. catering, accommodation, transport; international student surveys.
The principle national student feedback tool which informs institutional and programme management, as well as national policy, is the Irish Survey of Student Engagement
StudentSurvey.ie is for first year and final year undergraduate and taught postgraduate students. It opens each year during February – March for a three-week fieldwork period. PGR StudentSurvey.ie is for Masters by Research and PhD postgraduate research students. This survey runs every second year, also in February – March for a three-week fieldwork period. Survey dates for all participating institutions are available here, and the survey questions are available here.
The main focus of StudentSurvey.ie and PGR StudentSurvey.ie is student engagement, namely the amount of time and effort that students put into meaningful and purposeful educational activities, and the extent to which institutions provide such opportunities and encourage students to engage with them. The data collected reflects students’ self-reported perceptions of their experiences.
Since the first survey in 2013, approximately 345,000 students have contributed to a large and valuable data set, providing insight into student opinion on important issues of higher education policy and practice. This direct student input serves as a guide for the continual enhancement of the universities’ learning and teaching practices and student engagement. Details and results are shared widely as national reports, which are then analysed and interpreted within the universities.
Trends Over Time: A StudentSurvey.ie Microsite
Between 2016 and 2021, 232,450 students completed StudentSurvey.ie, each answering over 60 questions about their experiences of higher education. For the first time, results of student feedback over this six year period have been made available in an interactive format on a new StudentSurvey.ie microsite – the StudentSurvey.ie Trends Over Time Research 20216-2021. The analysis over the period 2016 to 2021 shows a level of consistency in student feedback for the years 2016 to 2020 and a significant drop in scores for the year 2021.
This new website also collates examples from higher education institutions showing how they have used the StudentSurvey.ie feedback to introduce facilities and opportunities for students to improve their overall experience. The potential use of the survey is vast, and the case studies describe actions like informing programme design and provision of student facilities, such as the library. Finally, the new analysis includes an overview of results of similar surveys in 10 other countries which have been brought together for the first time to provide an international context for the Irish survey results.