42% of students do not discuss coursework with teaching staff outside class

35,850 students provide feedback in 2017 Irish Survey of Student Engagement

In 2017, 59% of students feel they are well supported by their institution to help them achieve academically. This is according to the 2017 Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE), who has published the results of a national survey. The results are based on responses from students in 27 public higher education institutions.

Over 35,850 students provided feedback in this year’s survey. Those involved in Information and Communications Technology reported the highest level of satisfaction with the quality of interactions in their institution, while those involved in the study of Education reported the lowest quality of interactions.

21.1% of students found that their institution “very much” emphasised providing support for their overall well-being in terms of recreation, health-care, and counselling, while 14.5% felt that there was “very little” emphasis in this area.

Only 3.7% of students reported that they “very often” discussed their performance with academic staff, while 42.3% “never” discussed course topics, ideas, or concepts with academic staff outside of class.

Students’ interaction with academic staff was low compared to other countries. First year students reported the lowest interaction with staff out of all year groups.

Students tended to seek support from peers more frequently than lecturers, with tutorials being the accepted method of combining support from peers and academic staff. 53% of students reported working with other students on projects or assignments either “often” or “very often”.

14.3% of students indicated that their institution “very much” emphasised contact among students from different social, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, while 23.4% responded that emphasis in this area was “very little”.

In 2017, the ISSE conducted an in-depth exploration of the experiences of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students in third-level institutions. The survey found that STEM students spend less time addressing higher order learning than those studying non-STEM subjects. Higher order learning is considered as the extent to which work emphasises challenging tasks such as application, analysis, judgement, and synthesis of information.

25% of non-STEM students reported that their coursework placed an emphasis on “evaluating a point of view,” while only 15% of STEM students agreed with this statement.

Over one quarter of STEM students felt their coursework involved applying fact, theories, or methods to practical problems or new situations. Postgraduate students in STEM subjects were the most likely to report engagement with analysis of ideas (30%), with slightly more final year STEM students (21%) agreeing than first year STEM students (19%).

Students studying STEM subjects in universities reported a higher level of emphasis on forming an understanding or new idea from various pieces of information that students in institutes of technology or other institutions. One quarter of STEM students in universities believe this occurs “very much,” while only one fifth of STEM students in other types of institutions responded in the same way.

Overall, 56% of students believe they have developed clear and effective writing skills “quite a bit” or “very much” and 63% “often” or “very often” improved knowledge and skills that will contribute to their employability.

The ISSE was developed in response to the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030’s recommendation that higher education institutions should have a comprehensive anonymous student feedback system. The survey informs institutional and programme development alongside national policy.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.