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IT Carlow welcomes StudentSurvey.ie (Irish Survey of Student Engagement) Interim Results Bulletin 2021

03/06/2021

Institute of Technology Carlow has welcomed the publication of the results of StudentSurvey.ie Interim Results Bulletin, which contain the findings of nearly 50,000 student respondents across 25 HEIs into the impact of COVID-19 on their experience of higher education.

David Denieffe, Vice-President for Academic Affairs at IT Carlow commented, “Our students have shown tremendous resilience over the last 14 months and it is inspiring to see, through the respondents, the positive and strength demonstrated by higher education students across the country, not least at IT Carlow. We have endeavoured to support our students in any way we can and it is gratifying to read that respondent have felt supported by their college.  The survey results will help us prepare for the future and a return to a full campus as soon as we can”.

More than 80% of surveyed undergraduate and postgraduate students have reported feeling supported by their higher education institution (HEI) in terms of ongoing effective and timely communication throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, however absence and loss has been highlighted by many postgraduate research students, who also expressed a need for more funding, more support and more access.

The bulletin contains aggregated national results relating to responses to an additional seven questions asked in StudentSurvey.ie and PGR StudentSurvey.ie 2021. The questions specifically addressed the impact of COVID-19 on students’ experience of higher education. The results are separate to the established survey questions, which continued alongside and the results of which will be considered in the annual National Reports, to be published later this year.

StudentSurvey.ie (the Irish Survey of Student Engagement; Suirbhé na hÉireann ar Rannpháirtíocht na Mac Léinn) asks first and final year undergraduate and taught postgraduate students about their experiences of higher education in Ireland, including their academic, personal, and social development. In 2021, 43,791 students participated (giving a national response rate of 28.4%). PGR StudentSurvey.ie (Irish Survey of Student Engagement for Postgraduate Research Students; Suirbhé na hÉireann ar Rannpháirtíocht na Mac Léinn do Mhic Léinn Taighde Iarchéime) invites responses from postgraduate research students. In 2021, 3,541 Masters by Research and PhD students participated (giving a national response rate of 34%).

These surveys are the only ones of their kind in Ireland. The national fieldwork was carried out in February-March 2021, during which time Ireland was in Level 5 lockdown, providing data from nearly 50,000 students across 25 participating HEIs.

Focus on COVID-19

The results demonstrate that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the experience of undergraduate and postgraduate students in higher education in Ireland and highlight their priorities for what needs to be done to support them.

Some highlighted results from the StudentSurvey.ie Interim Results Bulletin 2021:

  • 80.8% of first and final year undergraduate and taught postgraduate students felt supported in terms of ongoing effective and timely communication, 74.0% indicated that they had a suitable study environment at home (space to work, internet access, computer, etc), and 47.1% felt connected to their HEI despite the restricted access to campus.
  • 84.3% of first and final year undergraduate and taught postgraduate students reported having adequate online learning opportunities, and 86.3% could access this online learning sufficiently.
  • 83.3% of postgraduate research students felt supported in terms of ongoing effective and timely communication, 67.0% indicated that they had a suitable study environment at home, and 57.8% felt connected with their HEI despite the restricted access to campus.
  • 35.6% of postgraduate research students reported that COVID-19 had an impact their funding or their ability to fund themselves during their research, and 59.2% reported having adequate access to the on-campus facilities required to engage with their research.
  • When asked, “what are the positive elements of the online/ blended learning experience you want to keep when on-campus studies resume?”, the dominant responses from first and final year undergraduate and taught postgraduate students referenced recorded lectures.
  • Within responses to the question “in what way(s) could your higher education institution improve its support for you during the current circumstances?” the responses from first and final year undergraduate and taught postgraduate students largely focussed on communication, and students’ desire to have more and better communication.
  • When asked, “How has COVID-19 most impacted on your research?” the overall theme for postgraduate researcher students was one of absence and loss. Postgraduate research students have lost time, access to essential facilities and a suitable research environment.
  • When asked, “In what way(s) could your higher education institution improve its support for you during the current circumstances?” the overall theme for postgraduate researcher students was one of need. Postgraduate research students need more - they need more time, more funding, more support, and more access.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, also welcomed the publication of the results: “Covid-19 has disrupted all our lives but for our young people, it has deprived them of significant milestones including some of their college experience. This survey allows us to hear directly from students on how this year has affected them. It is welcoming that students felt supported by their higher education institutions, while highlighting areas of improvement. We are currently planning for the future and the new academic year and this important survey will help us as we prepare for a significant increase in on-site activity from later this year. It will ensure student wellbeing will be at the centre of our decisions.”

Dr Siobhán Nic Fhlannchadha, Project Manager for StudentSurvey.ie, described the importance of the results from 2021: “The results serve as a powerful measure of the national taught and research student experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Higher education institutions have a responsibility to harness this insight as they reflect on what can be learned from the COVID-19 experience in planning for a better future. Other stakeholders in higher education should commit to careful consideration of these initial findings as we, collectively, seek to provide better opportunities for students whose educational experiences changed dramatically in 2020 and 2021.”

The full Interim Report can be downloaded here.