Results from the largest survey of Australian university students ever conducted reveal that 80 per cent of students rate the quality of their educational experience as good or excellent.
More than 110 000 students completed the University Experience Survey, which was developed for the Australian Government by a consortium of organisations led by ACER and was conducted between July and October 2012. The Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education released the national report in late March.
Report co-author, ACER Higher Education Research Director Associate Professor Hamish Coates, said the survey provides universities with analytic information on the nature and quality of the student experience.
'The insights captured via the University Experience Survey will be instrumental in helping institutions further improve the quality of teaching and learning,' Associate Professor Coates said.
The survey is the first to investigate at a national level whether students feel adequately supported by their institutions. Eighty-three per cent of students reported there being at least some support services available at their institution, and 82 per cent reported that the available support services were helpful.
However, around half (53 per cent) of Australian students reported being offered very little or no support relevant to their circumstances. On the question of whether students received appropriate English language skill support, 27 per cent responded ‘not at all’ and 13 per cent responded ‘very little’.
The survey was also the first to examine the impact of certain external factors on students’ university experience. Nationally, 44 per cent of students reported that their living arrangements had at least some impact on their study, 51 per cent of students reported that financial circumstances affected their study and 52 per cent of students nationally reported that paid work had at least some effect on their study.
Associate Professor Coates said the survey results set a baseline for further monitoring.
'It takes about three to five years of ongoing design, formative review and development to fully contextualise a new data collection of this scale, given the stakeholders, change and consolidation required,' Associate Professor Coates said.
The national report includes 15 recommendations for the further development of the survey. Among these recommendations is a call for non-university higher education providers to be included in future administrations, and the need for strategies to enhance the level of student participation in the survey.
'Foundation stones have been laid and new frontiers tested but substantial work remains to convert this fledgling survey into a truly national vehicle for improving and monitoring the student experience,' Associate Professor Coates said. ■