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Summary of this research

The results presented in the StudentSurvey.ie Trends Over Time Research 2016-2021 originate from six years of student feedback gathered by StudentSurvey.ie (the Irish Survey of Student Engagement; Suirbhé na hÉireann ar Rannpháirtíocht na Mac Léinn). Offering the same questions each year during this six year period allows us to present national results to understand and explore any changes in students’ perceptions of their experiences and engagement with their higher education institutions. Meaningful change does not happen quickly, and it best happens when based on the results of multiple years of data.

Within institutions enhancements are being made as a result of StudentSurvey.ie, and staff and students are best placed to measure and understand the impact of those enhancements through interrogation of their institutional data because of their understanding of the local context. This research includes case studies from institutions highlighting how they have used StudentSurvey.ie and PGR StudentSurvey.ie to effect change. It is hoped that this body of case studies will continue to grow in order to provide examples and effective practices to support others who are looking to make the most of the valuable dataset StudentSurvey.ie has created.

This research concludes with the contextualisation of StudentSurvey.ie results in Ireland against 10 other countries. Readers may find these analyses of interest and they may spark further research.

This addition to the student engagement discourse in Ireland will stimulate discussion about the trajectory of student engagement developments and their impact over time, as well as provide participating institutions with inspiration and direction for their own analyses and actions.

Key messages from presentation of case studies

The case studies demonstrate the importance of collecting information showing how participating institutions have used the results of StudentSurvey.ie and PGR StudentSurvey.ie to achieve impact and to enhance the experience of students in their institution.

Institutions have used the StudentSurvey.ie responses, both qualitative and quantitative, to inform institutional decision making. The potential use of the survey is vast, and the case studies describe actions like informing programme design and provision of student facilities.

Success of decisions can be measured by analysing the results of subsequent surveys.

Capacity to analyse their StudentSurvey.ie data remains variable, but improving, across and within the institutions.

Key messages from results over time

232,450 students responded to StudentSurvey.ie between 2016 and 2021, which provides a large and robust evidence base to inform policy and institutional actions

The response rate is nearly 30% per annum, with first years responding at higher levels than final year undergrads or postgrads, female students responding more than male, and full-time students responding more than part-time.

At a national level, change happens in small increments. However, the inclusion of interactive dashboards allows for deeper exploration of the data, and to gain greater understanding of similarities and differences between groups of students over time.

Some indicators, such as Collaborative Learning and Student-Faculty Interaction, show a significant change in the trend in 2021, likely to be those most influenced by COVID-19. Other indicators, such as Learning Strategies, did not appear to change their trajectory in 2021.

Key messages from StudentSurvey.ie in an international context

The examination of high-level results for other countries was valuable in helping us understand the significance of the results for students in Ireland.

The mean scores for respondents in Ireland fall towards the middle of the range of scores for other adaptations of the NSSE survey worldwide. There was no one country which the results for students in Ireland were similar to for all four questions included as responses varied from country to country and from question to question.

There are limitations to how closely StudentSurvey.ie results can be compared to results of different surveys of student experience being operated in diverse higher education contexts worldwide. This is especially true of comparisons of the StudentSurvey.ie and UK National Student Survey (NSS) results.

A chapter on the Irish Survey of Student Engagement, as well as a chapter containing further analysis of the data used for “Ireland compared to Australia, Chile, China, South Korea, South Africa, USA and UK” has been published in Global Student Engagement (Coates, Gao, Guo & Shi, 2022).

Conclusion and next steps

The results of StudentSurvey.ie are one part of a larger cycle of activity, which emphasises promoting the survey, participating in the survey, analysing the results and achieving impact. Data analysis and achievement of impact take time, and these parts of the cycle are not solely dependent on the timing of fieldwork. As we can see from this research, the data have enduring value that is not tied to the year the data were collected in. For StudentSurvey.ie, achieving impact is understood to mean identifying the value which has been added, and continues to be added, to the student experience by this data collection, analyses and the subsequent integration of results into policy and practice (Nic Fhlannchadha & Hackett, 2020). In other words, exploring what real positive impacts the survey has had in terms of highlighting indicative areas which appear to be working well, areas for improvement and areas for further development.

The Irish Survey of Student Engagement first took place in 2013. As we move into the next decade of StudentSurvey.ie, conversations will be had about the future of the survey, its use in influencing policy and practice, and its authentic value to students. Let’s have those conversations together, starting at the StudentSurvey.ie Practitioners Forum in Galway in June 2022. Find more information here, bígí linn!

Questions, comments and further information

Contact the StudentSurvey.ie Project Manager at info@studentsurvey.ie or using any of the social media channels listed here.