An overview of the data collected by the Canadian University Survey Consortium over the past decade shows that student satisfaction with the quality of their education and their professors is strong. “It’s a good-news story,” says Tim Rahilly, the associate vicepresident, students, at Simon Fraser University and director of special projects at CUSC.
Every year the consortium conducts one of three surveys on a rotating basis: all undergraduate students, first-year students, and graduating students. The consortium, which includes 40 universities, started in 1994.
In the 2010 survey, the most recent and based on responses from about 12,500 firstyear students, almost 90 percent of respondents said their university experience either met or exceeded their expectations. But there were variations by type of institution. Among primarily undergraduate universities, 32 percent said their experience exceeded expectations. The figure was lower for comprehensive universities, 21 percent, and lower still for large research institutions at 19 percent.
The disparity “is a huge challenge” for institutions, says Dr. Rahilly. Data collected over the past 10 years, based on more than 120,000 surveys, uncovered geographic differences as well: student satisfaction was generally higher at non-urban universities, but urban institutions scored higher on learning outcomes.
Satisfaction with student services is strong among all universities and in general is rising. The number-one reason students give for going to university is to land a good job. When it comes to choosing a school, students said they are more likely to consider the merits of a specific program than an institution’s reputation. Dr. Rahilly presented the findings, which he cautions are preliminary, at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services held in Toronto in June.
Students’ view of university life wasn’t entirely rosy. Universities don’t do a good enough job of making them feel a part of the university community, they said. Another perennial gripe: the food.
The data also paints a picture of a changing student body, with female respondents in the majority and rising. Students’ age, on average, is dropping, albeit modestly. The percentage of visible minorities is up, and so is the number of students with a disability; but the proportion of aboriginal students has remained stable.