UKES 2017 points to improving student engagement

Wednesday, 8 November, 2017

Three full years of the HEA UK Engagement Survey data shed light on encouraging trends in how students are engaging in different learning activities.

In particular, there have been clear year-on-year increases in students spending time interacting (increasing from 33% to 36%) or partnering with staff (40% to 42%) – areas in which engagement levels have traditionally been low.

This year, a significant increase in participation by institutions and a marked increase in the numbers of students responding to the survey, from just over 23,000 to just shy of 36,000, makes the report’s findings even more robust than before.

The results also show a clear increase in students reporting the development of soft skills during their time at university. These include developing personal values (increasing from 63% to 67%), understanding others (65% to 68%), how to become an active citizen (58% to 61%), and how to explore complex real world problems (66% to 68%).

Other findings in the report show:

  • the development of career skills has again fallen, and is now recognised by just under half of undergraduates (49%)
  • students of Black and Chinese ethnicity engage strongly in learning activities across the board
  • study time – both scheduled and independent – has fallen significantly in the past year; with a clear increase over each of the past two years in the number of students spending time in paid work (increasing from 45% to 52%) and caring (19% to 24%)
  • participation in sports and/or societies (falling from 60% to 54%). 

These trends in study time and participation are potentially significant for future levels of skills development, in that sports, societies and volunteering, which are in decline, appear to have a stronger impact on skills – including career skills – than working for pay, which is on the increase.

A new dimension in the report indicates that that those institutions with a relatively low socio-economic profile are likely to have more engaged students who report greater development of ‘soft’ and  ‘hard’ skills. Black students also report high engagement and skills development, though learning outcomes for these student groups are often lower than those from other backgrounds.

Professor Stephanie Marshall said, “UKES is important because it provides a powerful picture of how undergraduates are participating and being engaged in their studies. It’s really positive to see improving levels of engagement, equally, the report points to important areas such as falling study time and skills development which the sector will need to continue its efforts to reverse.”

Registrations are now open for the HEA’s 2018 surveys: the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES), the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) and the UK Engagement Survey (UKES).

Read the full report here

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