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Mixed results for WA unis in student survey that could affect funding

May 17, 2018 by

By David Allan-Petale –

Western Australia’s oldest university has received the lowest overall satisfaction score from undergraduates of any of the state’s major higher education institutions, falling just below the national average.

Measuring the “overall quality of educational experience”, the University of Western Australia was rated at 78.3 per cent in an annual federally funded student experience survey.

The national average for the “overall quality” measure was 78.5 per cent, with the rest of WA’s universities achieving ratings above that level and Edith Cowan University the top-rated public institution in the state.

However, the QILT report’s executive summary noted that comparing results was not definitive, saying “factors beyond the quality of the educational experience such as course offerings and the composition of the student population might also impact on student ratings”.

“For example, students at the University of Divinity, the University of Notre Dame Australia (WA) and Bond University rated their overall education experience in 2017 at 91 per cent,” it said.

“These universities are characterised by small numbers of students and this is consistent with previous research showing a negative association between institution size and student ratings.”

Notre Dame has around 10,000 students while UWA has more than 25,000.

And UWA’s below-average satisfaction survey result is in stark contrast to its ranking of seventh in the top 10 of the Times Higher Education’s 2018 global rankings for Australia’s best universities.

A spokesman for UWA said the QILT survey is “used to form future strategies to constantly improve”.

“It was pleasing to see QILT results improved in the past year in the areas of student support, learning resources and the overall educational experience,” he said.

“Since early 2017 we have been implementing specific steps to enhance the UWA student experience, including a review of specific courses.

“With a lag between QILT data being gathered and published, we are looking forward to seeing further positive outcomes from these initiatives in future results.”

But the survey’s results could count toward something far more concrete – future government funding for higher education.

Scores that could count

The survey is the first time the federal education department has published the full league tables showing how students felt about teaching, support and resources at their tertiary institutions.

It is part of a push by Education Minister Simon Birmingham for “greater transparency” about student sentiment – although the survey has been condemned as flawed and useless by critics.

Senator Birmingham told Fairfax Media he would use the results in deciding how much money universities receive once the Turnbull government lifts its university funding freeze in 2020.

The survey measured five aspects of the student experience: skills development, learner engagement, teaching quality, student support, and learning resources.

WA’s results show overall satisfaction

The University of Notre Dame Australia, with its campuses in Fremantle and Broome, was near the top of the national table with 91 per cent of undergraduates rating the quality of their entire educational experience as positive.

Top of WA’s public universities was Edith Cowan University, which had 84.9, followed by Curtin with 80.2 and then Murdoch with 80.1.

Reacting to his institition’s high ranking, ECU’s Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Arshad Omari said the results are welcome feedback.

“QILT provides a significant set of indicators for the sector because it is based on students’ and graduates’ direct experience of a university,” he said.

“ECU is committed to putting students at the centre of everything we do and it’s pleasing to see this is being recognised at a national level.”

– with Michael Koziol

Source: Mixed results for WA unis in student survey that could affect funding

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