2023 results published Data examining post graduate research student experience shows 3 out of 4 research students responding in a positive way to questions relating to Skills Development and Personal Outlook., the major annual survey examining students’ experiences of higher education in Ireland, captures essential data on Student engagement with college life, engagement which is important in enabling them to develop key capabilities, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, writing skills, teamwork, and communication skills.

In 2023, two comprehensive surveys were carried out.

– 39,403 first year undergraduate students, final year undergraduate students and students on taught postgraduate programmes took part in that ran in 21 higher education institutions in February and March 2023, which represents a national response rate of 25.7%.

  • A similar survey for Postgraduate Research Students takes place every two years. In 2023 4,350 students in 17 institutions completed the PGR, up from 3,541 in 2021, representing a national response rate of 38.1%. This is the highest response rate to date, and it is positive to see participation in the survey grow from year to year.

The 2023 report on the feedback from undergrad and taught postgrad students takes an in-depth look at first year’s perspective on their quality of interactions. The results of 8,451 first year respondents highlighted that the quality of interactions that first year students report across a range of relationships at their Higher Education institution influences their overall evaluation of their experience and is related to the likelihood of whether a student seriously considered withdrawal from their programme.

53.6% of students rated the overall quality of interactions at their institution as high, while only a small proportion (2.3%) rated this as low.  Among those who rated the quality of interactions as high

  • 92.2% had a positive overall evaluation of their institution.
  • 92.6% reported that they would go to the same institution again if they had their time over.

Commenting on the results, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris T.D.:

“Understanding students and their experiences should always be at the core of every decision that is made and every discussion that takes place in third level education.

It’s now ten years since began and in that time almost 375,000 students have participated in giving their feedback. We now have a robust high-quality evidence base to inform quality enhancement discussions and outcomes in our higher education institutions. It is really positive to see that student experiences have improved since COVID 19 and we should continue to build on this to ensure higher education in Ireland offers the most high quality of standards.

Over the decade, has become one of the largest tools at our disposal to understand the experiences and view of students. It is a real testament to the great efforts of students and staff within those institutions that such an evidence base exists.”

Other key findings in this year’s taught student survey report include:

  • 0% of respondents, if they could start over again, would probably/ definitely go to the same institution they are now attending.
  • 5% of students believed that their experience at their institution contributed to their knowledge, skills, and personal development ‘quite a bit’/ ‘very much’ in thinking critically and analytically.
  • 0% of students believed that their coursework emphasised ‘quite a bit’ / ‘very much’ forming an understanding or new idea from various pieces of information.
  • 4% of students ‘often’/ ‘very often’ connected their learning to problems or issues in society.
  • 5% of students believed that lecturers/ teaching staff taught in an organised way.
  • 9% of students believed that their institution emphasised ‘quite a bit’/ ‘very much’ providing support to help students succeed academically.
  • 3% of students believed that their experience at their institution contributed to their knowledge, skills, and personal development ‘quite a bit’/ ‘very much’ in acquiring job- or work-related knowledge and skills.

The 2023 PGR Report explores the changing landscape of Post Graduate Research in Ireland by spotlighting key findings from this year’s results and drawing comparisons with data from 2021.   It should be remembered that significant public health restrictions were in place when 2021 fieldwork occurred.

Students are benefiting from a return to campus and academic activities, with an increase in positive feedback about taking part in a placement or internship (+5.8%), attending (+7.1%) and presenting (+9.1%) at an academic research conference.

In the context of the increasing and justified focus on students’ mental health and well-being, it is encouraging to note a higher percentage of students responding in a positive way to questions relating to Personal Outlook. 64.8% of students report they are satisfied with life nowadays (56.6% in 2021) and 62.0% are satisfied with life within their institutions nowadays (54.4% in 2021). Of particular importance is an 8.6% increase in students reporting having someone in their university they can talk to about their day-to-day problems. Having this kind of support structure in place within educational institutions is paramount for the well-being of students.

Other key findings in this year’s PGR report, particularly relevant in this the EU Year of Skills, include:

On research skills:

86.0% ‘mostly’/ ‘definitely’ agreed that their skills in applying appropriate research methodologies, tools and techniques have developed during their programme

  • 3% ‘mostly’/ ‘definitely’ agreed that their skills in critically analysing and evaluating findings and results have developed during their programme.

86.6% ‘mostly’/ ‘definitely’ agreed that their understanding of ‘research integrity’ (e.g. rigour, ethics, transparency, attributing the contribution of others) has developed during their programme. On transferable skills:

77.7% ‘mostly’/ ‘definitely’ agreed that their ability to manage projects has developed during their programme.

  • 1% ‘mostly’/ ‘definitely’ agreed that their ability to communicate information effectively to diverse audiences has developed during their programme.

When asked if they have ever seriously considered withdrawing from their research degree, 42.1% of students reported they had considered this.

Of that’s 42.1% that has seriously considered withdrawing from their research degree

  • 7% was for financial reasons
  • 5% for personal or family reasons
  • 9% for health reasons
  • 6% for employment reasons
  • 8% would to transfer to another institution
  • 8% cited other

Commenting on the PGR, Chris Clifford, President of the Union of Students in Ireland, said:

The increase in postgraduate students taking the survey this year compared to 2021 truly shows the students’ strong desire for their voices and feedback to be acknowledged and listened to and we can’t wait for this to grow from strength to strength. A statistic that we found concerning is that 42.1% of respondents had considered to withdraw from their degree programme with 23.7% of those being due to financial constraints. Which highlights the need for increased funding into education so our students can feel supported to complete their studies.”

USI would like to see Higher Education Institutions collaborating with student unions in developing action plans following the surveys. These plans should outline concrete steps to address any concerns highlighted by survey results, reinforcing the commitment to enhancing the student experience.”

The full report is available on the website:

A summary of the findings can be downloaded from:

Student Survey Summary

Student Survey PGR Summary




For more information or interview requests please contact:

Vanessa Lewis, Interim Project Manager –;

More information can be found on

Report: (Irish Survey of Student Engagement) National Report 2023