HEA’s UK Engagement Survey (UKES): results from the second pilot year published

Wednesday, 12 November, 2014

The UK’s only national survey focusing on students’ engagement with their studies has revealed a new picture of how students participate in a range of important educational activities.

Participation in UKES has increased from nine institutions in 2013 to 32 institutions in 2014, with 25,533 undergraduate students taking part, compared to 8,500 last year. This wider second pilot is testament to the appetite in the sector for tools that give an insight into and data about how students actually engage with their studies, enabling a fully informed approach to learning and teaching enhancement.

Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive, HEA, comments:

“The importance of students’ engagement with their learning has long been known to those of us working on the enhancement of learning and teaching, but it is only recently that awareness has increased more broadly and affected the public discourse around educational quality. With UKES, the HEA has led the way in shifting attention towards institutions’ support and encouragement for student engagement, helping to reconceptualise learning and teaching in HE as being about challenging students to invest time and intellectual energy in their course and away from an emphasis on more passive modes of learning.

“It is incumbent upon the sector to continue to develop an understanding of students’ engagement in learning activities: it is interesting to note, for example, the proposed inclusion of items on engagement in the National Student Survey. The UK Engagement Survey is a key part of that effort, and I hope that even more students will get a chance to take part in UKES 2015, when it will run as a fully-fledged survey for the first time.”

Among the key findings are pronounced variations between the engagement reported by students in different disciplines. Predictably large differences were found between disciplines regarding the development of skills in numerical analysis (64% of students in European languages reported very little development compared to 3% of Engineering). Other disciplinary differences mirrored the results from 2013: 26% of students in Maths and Computer Sciences, and 20% of students in Physical Sciences, felt there was very little emphasis in the course on the evaluation of points of view and information sources, compared to 2% of History and Philosophy students and 3% of Social Studies students.

Students reported greater levels of skills development as they progressed through their degree, particularly for getting better at critical thinking, clear and effective speaking and numerical analysis. For more personal areas of growth – development of personal values and understanding people of other backgrounds – there was no significant difference between students in different years of study.

There were also suggestive findings about the amount of time that students spend preparing for class.

We are now taking Expressions of Interest for UKES 2015. If you would like to register your interest in taking part in UKES 2015, please email us at: surveys@heacademy.ac.uk . To find out more about the survey you can browse the survey web pages here or download the UKES FAQs. Read the full report on theUKES results for the second year pilot on our website here.

Notes to editors:

1. The majority of UKES is derived from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which is widely used in North America and around the English-speaking world. The UKES questionnaire includes 50 items, 39 drawn from NSSE and 11 unique to UKES.

2. The primary purpose of UKES is to allow institutions to explore how their own students engage with a range of important activities, and to benchmark themselves within the UK context and internationally. No institutional results are made public, and UKES data do not contribute to any league tables. The focus is firmly on the responsible use of student feedback to understand and improve learning and teaching processes and practices within institutions, departments and courses

3. The process for UKES 2014 was similar to that for 2013. Administration was devolved to the participating institutions, who were able to either use the Bristol Online Surveys (BOS) platform or a system of their own choosing. Institutions were able to add their own items to the questionnaire, or add the UKES items to their own existing surveys. They also had the freedom to administer the survey to any group of students they chose, at any point within the window of 1 February to 31 June 2014

4. UKES 2014 was a pilot, and had a relatively low response rate (13%). This, along with the self-selecting nature of the 32 institutions that participated, means that the findings should be interpreted with caution.

HEA Work Area: