Over 150 delegates from HEIs from across the UK are at the HEA Surveys conference in Birmingham today.
Ben Marks, Managing, Director of YouthSight, delivered the keynote address and emphasised that student feedback is key to HEI improvement – “institutions need to know themselves to know how to improve.”
He urged institutions to embrace a wide range of research methods and tools beyond traditional surveys to engage students. He said: “The mobile phone is the student portal. We need to use it widely and imaginatively – with other platforms and techniques - to engage students and give them a voice to offer opinion and feedback, reaching them through in-depth qualitative research.”
He cautioned that, “The things that an institution says about itself needs to match the reality of the student experience, otherwise its work will be undone by thousands of different messages on social media from students to their peers.”
The keynote was followed by workshops and networking:
Dr Anwen Williams, Director of Postgraduate Research Studies at Cardiff University, said: “This is the first time I have attended an HEA conference. I have learned a lot today about what’s going on in the sector in terms of surveys. It’s insightful because there’s a feeling that other people are doing excellent work and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel - other delegates are so willing to help. It’s such a collaborative atmosphere and ideas are being shared – that’s got to be great for enhancement.”
Dr Doug Ingram, from the University of Nottingham, said: “I am attending in an academic capacity rather than a member of the survey community – and I have found the conference very interesting, particularly in how universities use surveys in different ways. The sessions have reinforced my view of UKES as a robust survey with significant advantages over measures of student satisfaction.”
Jonathan Neves, HEA Head of Surveys, said: “I am delighted that the conference has attracted so many colleagues from the sector. The workshops and networking opportunities are all part of the sharing of the rich learning and experience in how surveys can be a key driver in bringing about changes for student success.
“The HEA is working very closely with institutions through our increasingly influential UK Engagement Survey (UKES), as well as our well-established surveys, the postgraduate research engagement survey (PRES), and the postgraduate taught engagement survey (PTES) – with nearly 83,000 respondents. These surveys provide rich insights, showing levels of engagement and in helping to inform key decision making in universities.”
Preliminary findings from the UKES 2016 are expected later this month. Independently verified research has established a link between HEA Fellowships and strong student engagement scores reported by UKES.