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Chapter 1 : Context for the Irish Survey of Student Engagement

The Union of Students in Ireland perspective

Photo of Bryan O'Mahony

Bryan O'Mahony, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Union of Students in Ireland

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) expressed their delight at the substantial participation of 39,403 first-year undergraduate, final-year undergraduate, and taught postgraduate students across 21 higher education institutions in Ireland in 2023.

This response shows the students' strong desire for their voices and feedback to be acknowledged and listened to.

A noticeable trend in student engagement, unfortunately, indicated a decline in overall engagement levels. Consequently, student engagement in the survey is progressively lower when you look at the last two reports. A statistic that we found concerning is that 36.6% of respondents had seriously considered to withdraw from their degree programme with 10.3% of those being due to financial constraints. Which highlights the need for increased funding into education. holds value for institutions, providing a direct channel for students to express their personal experiences within higher education.

It also equips institutions with valuable insights into students' academic, personal, and social progress. As emphasised earlier, this information is invaluable, making it imperative for institutions to thoroughly examine the data, acknowledge their strengths, and identify areas needing improvement. Such actions will enable them to make informed decisions and implement changes that benefit their student population.

Students on steps

Effective engagement with survey data requires that institutes must ensure that students are active participants in the deliberation process.

Collaborative efforts between higher education institutes and students are crucial for assessing feedback and determining the necessary institutional responses. This collaborative approach brings more confidence in students that their feedback holds weight and is being actively considered at the institutional level.

Looking ahead, to ensure the effectiveness of as a tool for capturing the student experience and driving quality improvement in higher education institutions, it is imperative to engage students throughout the entire survey lifecycle.

With the assurance that responding to contributes to tangible advancements and developments, students will be more motivated to share their perspectives. This is contingent on institutions actively demonstrating that they value student opinions and are committed to implementing meaningful changes in response.

One potential solution to reinforce the importance of students' roles in is to encourage Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to collaborate with student unions in developing action plans. These plans should outline concrete steps to address any concerns highlighted by survey results, reinforcing the commitment to enhancing the student experience.