A recent visit to a university in South East Asia highlighted for me another aspect of the student experience that I hadn’t perhaps thought about in any depth. The head of admissions explained that they had just begun to reach out to their alumni and some had come back saying that they weren’t interested because their experience at the university had been so poor. They got the qualification that led to a job and hopefully a rewarding career, but didn’t look back on their university life with any fondness and were unwilling to re-engage with the university or contribute to a fund-raising drive.
Increasingly institutions have begun to realise globally that the ‘student experience’ is central to the long-term success of their institution and that it touches on all aspects of a university’s operation. Marketing and recruitment are now far less concered about glossy brochures or stands at exhibitions – but about generating a positive word of mouth from existing students. No amount of expense on glossy cutting-edge websites can compete with the unfiltered opinions of the students on campus who spread their views across cyberspace in real time. A feedback loop that is alive to every incident both within and outside the campus. For example, an isolated case of bag snatching on an underpass to the university can lead to a spiral that it is an unsafe place to be.
"No amount of expense on glossy cutting-edge websites can compete with the unfiltered opinions"
We’ve been collecting data from 3 million students via the Student Barometer since 2005 and it captures the evolving views of students on their living, learning and study experiences across 33 countries. A recent seminar in Singapore highlighted how individual institutions use our data to help understand what their students feel, which they then use to improve the experience. We have worked with two of the leading private institutions in Singapore over the last few years and representatives from these institutions explained the work they have done using Barometer data.
SIM Global is one of the largest and most prestigious private institutions in Singapore with a significant number of overseas partners primarily from the UK and Australia. Their presentation focused on the learning and teaching aspects which are covered by our Student Barometer. They showed how through sustained intervention they have improved the student experience in several areas such as language support for international students, careers advice from the lecturers and establishing a more effective training programme for academics.
(Student Barometer) "captures the evolving views of students on their living, learning and study experiences across 33 countries"
JCU Singapore is a branch campus of James Cook University and the only institution in Singapore to achieve EduTrust Star from the Singaporean government. The focus of their presentation at our seminar was on the living aspects of our survey. They had recently moved to a new campus and wished to ensure the campus environment, sports facilities and social activities met the needs of the students. Seeking feedback from the students via our Barometer was a vital part of the process and they have made key improvements in the campus catering and gym, as well as ensuring the clarity of a campus map allowing for easy navigation around the campus.
Although teaching and learning is the central part of a university’s purpose, the living, social and support services are a vital part of the experience for a student and high levels of satisfaction in these aspects can lead to more positive outcomes in learning. Indeed, part of the work we do looks at correlation statistics which tell us which areas of university provision are significant in leading to student recommendation. Fairly consistently over the last few years, several areas show a high correlation and these include campus buildings, good contacts, social activities, and employability. Arguably these are some of the key items that universities need to get right to ensure students will become ambassadors for their institutions. When we refer to good contacts and employability the actual questions asked are about satisfaction with making good contacts for the future and learning that will help me get a good job. These items are vital for students and show the value of networking as part of university life and the necessity of making sure the academics and lecturers ensure the students can see the connection between their learning and a future career.
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