Around 400 000 students from 40 universities are set to have their say on core aspects of their university experience, in what will potentially be Australia’s largest ever survey of higher education, which opened in July.
After only a year, the removal of caps on government-funded student places at Australian universities has already resulted in a significant increase in the number of students participating in higher education. This expansion has raised the importance of maintaining quality in higher education provision.
ACER is leading the further development and 2012 implementation of a new survey designed to monitor the quality of students’ university experience. Building on 2011 foundation research and development, the survey provides universities and the Australian Government with reliable, valid and generalisable information to help ensure ongoing improvement in the quality of learning and teaching in Australian universities.
The University Experience Survey (UES) focuses on aspects of the student experience that are measurable, are linked with learning and development outcomes, and for which universities can reasonably be assumed to have responsibility. These aspects include core areas of learner engagement, teaching and support, and educational development.
The 2012 UES is being administered in July and August to a sample of first-year and final-year students, including domestic and international onshore students, in all 38 public institutions as well as in participating private institutions. Students complete the questionnaire online or by phone.
Work on the UES began in 2011, when the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations engaged an ACER-led consortium to develop a tool and method for allocating performance-based funds for continuous quality improvement. The consortium designed and validated the survey and collection method, and made recommendations about further development.
In May 2012 the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education engaged the consortium to work with universities and key stakeholders to revise the UES for public reporting purposes, including in its use to inform student choice and continuous improvement. It is this incarnation of the UES that is currently at the field testing stage. ACER’s Associate Professor Hamish Coates, CSHE’s Professor Richard James and UWS’s Professor Kerri-Lee Krause are leading the consortium in this work.
A report on the 2012 survey is due for release in December. The report will include a strategy for using the UES for the purposes of international benchmarking, as well as detailed discussion of results and any other significant findings emerging from the research.
In addition to the project report, the consortium will prepare and provide detailed diagnostic and benchmarking reports for each participating institution. National and institution-specific data sets will also be produced.