Universities collect a considerable amount of data on students’ perceptions of the quality of teaching and institutional services, including on their satisfaction with the overall experience. While much data is collected from students, less is collected on what students are actually doing. Yet it is equally – or arguably more – important to understand students and their learning as it is to understand learners’ satisfaction with provision. The Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) provides data on both learners’ engagement in effective learning practices and on whether institutions have provided the support mechanisms to facilitate such engagement. It also collects data on overall satisfaction. Monitoring student satisfaction plays an important role in assuring the quality of higher education. It provides information on whether learners see a return on their educational investment. Yet satisfaction is underpinned by more than happiness. We need to examine the determinants of satisfaction, not just satisfaction itself, to identify what institutions can do to enhance education. That is, we need to look beyond satisfaction at more fundamental educational factors to identify how to enhance student outcomes and their overall experience. This briefing focuses on students’ overall satisfaction. It identifies the activities and conditions that influence students’ satisfaction – the educational levers that institutions can use to enhance students’ university experience. The merits of satisfaction data have been debated for decades. From one perspective, it has been argued that learners are not able to assess service quality as they are in the process of shaping their knowledge and skill. From another, learners are seen as able to offer a privileged perspective on the educational process. For current purposes, it is assumed that learners’ satisfaction with the quality of provision offers an important perspective on quality, but that it is one perspective among many. The briefing is based on analysis of data from the AUSSE, conducted for the first time in 2007 with 25 Australian and New Zealand higher education institutions. A stratified probabilistic sampling strategy is deployed to produce results for first- and later-year bachelor degree students. Post-stratification weighting is used to ensure that responses represent the target population. In 2007 a total of 9,585 responses were received from students at participating universities.
Coates, Hamish 'Beyond Happiness: Managing Engagement to Enhance Satisfaction and Grades', AUSSE Research Briefing, v.1 June 2008