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Half of university students failing to connect

Australian Universities


Just half of all students had a sense of belonging with their university last year and less than half interacted with fellow ­students outside study time, a national report on the student experience reveals.

And while students are largely satisfied with their teachers, they say student services are sadly lacking and have little or no relevance to their personal circumstances.

Once universities have students enrolled — the admissions process is deemed effective and efficient — students are then left to their own devices with just one if five first-year students saying they received appropriate English-language support, and a paltry 16 per cent of later-year students saying they received adequate support.

And given widespread rhetoric from equity practitioners who say student support services will help academically ill-prepared students adapt to the rigours of university life, just 16 per cent of students nationally said they used student support services to help them study.

“It is reassuring to see a large percentage of responses expressing satisfaction with the quality of teaching and the entire educational experience (both with 79 per cent), which were also among the highest-rated items,” the 2013 University Experience Survey National Report says.

“The lowest results were ­observed in relation to items in the student support focus area, with few students indicating that they used university services to support their students or that they received appropriate English language skill support. It could also be concerning that only 26 per cent expressed the view that their institution ­offered support relevant to their circumstances.”

However, Greg Evans, deputy chief executive of peak body Universities Australia, ­dismissed the poor performance in student support and engagement.

“The student support ­category was positive and drew a 53 per cent rating which ­includes a large array of student services including health, legal and counselling, which many students may not have used,” he said.

“For this reason, the category could well be rated lower than if it was a specific academic support service. Learner ­engagement was also strong, measuring a 57 per cent satisfaction level. “There is no evidence in the survey that lower ATAR students are not receiving the support they need to assist them in their studies.”

Yet the report also notes that the relatively large number of students who expressed serious consideration of dropping out “underscores the importance of student support in terms of ­allowing students to continue with their studies”.

The report also expresses concern with apparent disengagement and support for older students. “There is a clear negative association between age and learner engagement, with young students (aged under 25) much more likely to be satisfied with their level of engagement than students in the older age groups and those aged 30 and over in particular,” the report says.

“This result is consistent with the fact that older students are much more likely to study either externally or by mixed-mode delivery which are characterised by relatively low levels of student engagements.

“Interestingly though, older students were much more likely to express satisfaction with the student support provided by their institution.”

The UES report was based on the responses of 100,000 students from all 40 universities between August and November. (THE AUSTRALIAN)

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