Launch of new national student survey

 A new national survey of third level students, launched today (Friday 13 December 2013), will help Irish higher education institutions to enhance the quality of education they provide by asking students in detail about their experiences. This fully national survey is the first system-wide survey of its kind in Europe and will be rolled out by participating institutions in February – March 2014.

 The Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) is designed to reach out to students and to hear about their full experience of higher education. Student feedback will provide institutions with valuable information that they can use to identify effective practice and provision and to prompt awareness of, and action on, any particular issues or challenges that affect students.

Student engagement with institutional life is a vital ingredient to ensure that students develop key skill-sets such as critical thinking, problem-solving, writing skills, team work and communication skills.

A pilot survey was offered in 2013 to all first year undergraduate, final year undergraduate and taught postgraduate students.  Over 12,700 students across 26 higher education institutions participated, helping to make the survey representative of the overall student voice.  In 2014, 30 institutions will participate in the survey including all Universities, all Institutes of Technology and all Colleges of Education.

Speaking at the launch, Tom Boland (CEO of the HEA) said; “Today marks another milestone in the implementation of the National Strategy for Higher Education with the publication of the outcomes of the national pilot study for the Irish Survey of Student Engagement. This is the first system-wide survey of student engagement in Europe and it will establish the student voice at the heart of higher education policy and practice.”

Joe O’Connor, President of USI, said – “In order to enhance quality and standards in Higher Education, it is vitally important that the voice of the student is listened to and harnessed effectively. This survey, through this national partnership, allows us to gauge student feedback in a way we had previously been unable to. I would call on all students to ensure they have their say, and for Higher Education Institutions to take this input seriously in implementing initiatives following on from analysis of the data produced.”

Some Results from the Pilot Survey

  • 72% of all participating students reported positive relationships with teaching staff, finding them to be available, helpful and sympathetic (a score of 5 or greater on 7 point scale).
  • 62% of all participating students selected often or very often, when asked if they were improving knowledge and skills that will contribute to their employability
  • 50% of all participating students selected / reported quite a bit, or very much when asked if they were solving complex real world problems
  • 60% of all participating students selected often or very often, when asked if they used an online learning system to complete an assignment
  • 58% of all participating students selected often or very often, when asked if they had conversations with students of a different ethnicity/nationality
  • 25% of all participating students selected plan to or done, when asked if they were considering Study abroad/student exchange
  • 79% of all participating students selected good or excellent, when asked how they would evaluate their entire educational experience at their institutional
  • 76% of all participating students selected quite a bit or very much, when asked if they spend a significant amount of time studying and on academic work.

Paul Hannigan, President of Letterkenny Institute of Technology and representing Institutes of Technology Ireland said; “Research shows that positive student engagement favours the development of important skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and communication skills.  The use of a single comprehensive survey nationally benefits individual institutions and national dialogue around higher education by providing evidence directly from the student as to how we are responding to this challenge in Ireland.”

Mark Rogers, Deputy President and Registrar of UCD representing the Irish Universities Association said; “this engagement survey will provide the universities with a very rich set of data about the whole student experience of higher education. Results from the ISSE along with other institutional and national datasets will inform ongoing discussions within each HEI on the student experience and how it may be further enhanced.”

ISSE is funded centrally by the Higher Education Authority and is a national collaborative partnership between HEA, IOTI, IUA and USI.  The survey was developed in response to a key recommendation of the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 that every higher education institution should put in place a comprehensive anonymous student feedback system to inform institutional and programme/course development, as well as national policy.

Mary Doyle, Deputy Secretary General of the Department of Education and Skills said: “The collaborative partnership approach adopted for this project has successfully developed a survey instrument of high quality that will lend valuable insight into the experience of students in Irish higher education over coming years. More importantly, it will contribute to an increasing evidence base to inform national dialogue and policy around higher education.”

ISSE is based on best practice internationally as developed by the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) since 2007 and the US National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) since 2000.


For more information contact:

Sean O’Reilly, Project Manager, Irish Survey of Student Engagement         01 7082952          085 8194551

Student Survey Infographic