Chapter 5: Reflections
Influence on strategy and policy
Professor Eeva Leinonen, President, Maynooth University
A data-informed and evidence-based approach to decision-making is at the core of our approach to the development of the new Maynooth University Strategic Plan 2023-2028. Students and staff are invited to contribute to all aspects of an open consultation and engagement process that encourages our university community to take a data-informed approach to the strategic decisions that we need to make as an institution. Data from Studentsurvey.ie 2022 and our Maynooth University Student Success initiative, together with other forms of direct engagement with our students and colleagues, will help us to understand better the educational experience of our students, their engagement and success. I welcome the data from Studentsurvey.ie, which provides us with some excellent insights that will inform how we continue to improve and enhance the educational, personal, and professional development opportunities that we offer our students over the coming five years and beyond.
Joint reflection from Student Union Officers in NCISU, TUSSU, TCDSU
Kevin Pakenham (TUSSU), Éimear Annesley (NCISU) and Zöe Cummins (TCDSU)
Students’ Union officers across the country promoted StudentSurvey.ie in their institutions between February and March in 2022. Engagement was not as high as officers initially had hoped for. Each campus was different last year as they introduced students back on campus after multiple lockdowns.
It was interesting to see that 33.4% of students often/ very often included varied perspectives (political, religious, racial, ethnic, gender, etc.) in conversations or assignments, compared to 28.5% in 2021. It is pleasing to see that the curriculum is evolving to represent the diversity of our society and we hope to see it increase more next year. The options for gender in the survey should expand more from the current options that exist, such as male, female, prefer not to specify, and non-binary, instead of being categorised as ‘undeclared’. For example, data should be collected regarding trans and intersex students and their comparative academic success, to ensure that there are adequate supports. We also hope that future surveys will pay attention to students with disabilities.
Students have considered withdrawing from their institutions for a wide range of reasons, for example, financial reasons, personal or family reasons, health reasons, and employment reasons. We have no doubt that the cost of living and accommodation crises will have a negative impact on these figures if proper steps are not taken to invest in these students, their facilities, and resources on campus.
Student Union representatives will continue to lobby for flexible and hybrid learning. Under learning strategies, we have seen an increase from 50.5% (2019 results) to 56.8% (2022) of students stating that they often/ very often reviewed their notes after class, tutorials, labs, or studios. We believe that the contemporary style of teaching and learning had an impact on this, as students have expressed that they were able to engage more with the extra resources.
Students will be returning to campus again, some for the first time since the pandemic started. It is positive to see that more students are engaging in collaborative learning. In 2021, 31.8%-44.9% engaged in it and this has increased to 41.9%-52.6% in 2022. The benefits of collaborative learning include an increase in student engagement inside and outside the classroom, the development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills. Currently, 34.2% of students often/ very often attend class, tutorials, labs, studios, or online without doing the preparation expected of them (completing readings or assignments, etc.). If we increase the amount of collaborative learning that takes place in HEIs, we believe that more students will come prepared to their classes.
We were happy to see the results for Effective Teaching Practices, for example, that 68.9% of students believed that lecturers/ teaching staff taught in an organised way and that 66.9% felt that course goals and requirements were clearly explained. However, the scores for Student-Faculty Interaction were low, with figures ranging from 10.3%-20.5%. However, the quality of interactions between staff and students from different areas was good, with 33.2%-59.7% finding them excellent (6/7 or 7/7). Students' Union reps welcome the Government’s commitment to significant additional core funding for HEIs, which will allow the student-staff ratio to be improved. It has increased from 20:1 to 23:1, which is significantly higher than OECD and European averages, which stand at 15:1.
Only 43.1% of students felt like they were given prompt and detailed feedback on their assessments. We hope that this figure will increase next year, as, for students to grow academically, they need to be given adequate feedback in all their assessments to know where and how to improve.
We hope that institutions recognise that higher education is about more than growing academically but growing as a person and engaging with extracurricular activities. A total of 46.6% of students often/ very often exercised or participated in physical fitness activities (whether related to their course/ institution or in their life outside their institution) and 51.9% of students plan to do/ have done/ were in process of engage in voluntary activity (whether related to their course/ institution or in their life outside their institution). Therefore, it would be worthwhile for institutions to look at accreditation for students who volunteer and participate in their institution and wider community.
It was positive to see that most students would attend their institution again if they had to start over. However, we welcome the improvements that will come from the survey’s findings. It is crucial that there is accountability for HEIs to make attempts to address any clear trends that exist in these institutions.