What influences a student’s decision to enrol at a university?
According to a new report, it’s much more than a simple list of cons and pros.
A newly released student survey by QS Enrolment Solutions says is vital that universities recognise the differing needs of each student so they can structure their communications accordingly.
Specifically, the report says Australia’s higher education institutions need to be more aware of the different channels prospective students engage with to get advice and assist decision making.
Now in its third year, the 2019 Domestic Student Survey (DSS) found the modern day student will only consider a course or institution if they believe that it will get them to where they want to go professionally.
Below, The Educator speaks to Chris Strods, market research and data manager at QS Enrolment Solutions, to find out more.
TE: Was there anything about the survey that you found particularly surprising?
CS: We know that teaching quality is critical when deciding where to study, but one thing that stood out to me was how vital it is to judging the overall “student experience” – much more so than some other factors that many would typically associate with the idea of student experience. Over three quarters of respondents said “teaching quality” was one of the three most important considerations for the “ideal student experience”, and around half said “graduate outcomes” were. In contrast, there appears to be less importance placed on the social aspects of the student experience – around one in seven put “social activities on campus” in their top three, and less than one in ten listed “clubs and societies”, “sports facilities” and “campus activities”. This is not to say that these things are unimportant - a vibrant campus life is undoubtedly critical for student satisfaction - but it demonstrates that the quality of education being offered is always top-of-mind – not just when choosing where to study.
TE: In your view, what are the most important findings out of the report for universities’ executive teams and why?
CS: The typical prospective student will be choosing from a number of different institutions when deciding where they want to study, and will be required to choose from a wide range of courses and subject areas. The Domestic Student Survey tells an important story about how they will make those decisions. The DSS suggests that when choosing a course – which is typically the first decision a prospective student makes – by far the two most important considerations are whether that course will lead to their chosen career, and whether it can offer a high quality teaching and learning environment. Similarly, teaching quality is also the most important factor when choosing a university to study at, along with the university offering a prospect’s preferred course. So what we’re seeing is that, above all else, the thing that really matters to prospective students is “will this course equip me with what I need to pursue my chosen career”. Additionally, graduate outcomes and ‘student experience’ (defined by student satisfaction with teaching quality) will comprise two of the four performance measures for the impending performance-based funding model for Australian universities, highlighting the importance of maximising performance in these areas.
TE: What educational institutions do you think are best prepared/well-placed when it comes to increasing the ‘employability’ of courses as suggested by the survey?
CS: Without singling out any particular institution, the ones most well-equipped to produce highly employable graduates are those which have strong partnerships with highly-regarded graduate employers, and who can harness these relationships by integrating internships, work placements and other forms of work-integrated learning into their courses. Allowing students to gain professional experience while they are studying, applying the knowledge they’ve gained in the classroom to real-world applications, while continuing to develop their broader workplace skillset, is essential to producing graduates who can seamlessly transition from the classroom to the professional workplace.