Robust and established
Looking over the results from the 2017 PTES survey, one of the elements that stands out is the level of commitment that institutions and their students continue to demonstrate towards the survey. Representing more than 100 institutions annually and providing the voice of more than half a million students since its inception in 2007, PTES has established itself as the leading measure of Postgraduate taught delivery.
To bring the latest findings to a wider audience, we are pleased to introduce a new infographic to highlight some of the key areas of insight from the survey, which we have outlined below.
A PG offer to be proud of
Overall, Postgraduate taught provision is in a healthy state. Consistently, more than 8/10 students are satisfied with their experience, while specific ratings of teaching staff and are even more positive – 9/10 students feeling their staff are enthusiastic, and explain things well.
In the context of a welcome focus on teaching quality across the sector, these findings are encouraging, and highlight how these established measures in PTES provide a template for measuring teaching quality at PG level.
Identifying the key components of a great PGT experience
The areas covered by PTES have been identified through established research as being key to measuring and delivering a positive experience. Now the analysis from the survey allows us to go one step further, and identify which of these aspects are the most crucial for delivering satisfaction.
By analysing the statistical link with overall satisfaction, we can identify two particular areas that are particularly important to get right. The first of these is support for learning, and the second is the organisation of the course. As our infographic shows, almost everybody (94%) who is satisfied with these aspects is also satisfied overall. By contrast, if a student is dissatisfied with either learning support or course organisation, then there is just a one-in-four likelihood that they will be satisfied overall.
If decisions are being made around resource allocation, then student support and course organisation are key areas where investment can generate tangible results.
Students make their choice of course and institution based on a variety of factors, ranging from content and reputation to more practical factors such as location and funding needs. Indeed, some of the factors represent little opportunity for informed choice, as in some cases there is just one institution offering the required course, or a combination of costs and location narrows the choice down to an essentially practical one.
The link between the type of choice available and the rating of the overall experience is illuminating. As our graphic demonstrates, the more an informed and considered choice is possible, then it is more likely that the student will be satisfied. Where choice is narrow due to practical factors, then this can result in lower satisfaction.
Clearly, institutions cannot always be responsible for the range of factors that may limit the choice available to a potential student. However, by identifying which students have made their decision for practical reasons then institutions can help to ensure that the right level of support is provided to help facilitate the best possible experience.
Where experiences differ
Despite the high overall standard reflected in these results, there is evidence that not all students experience this. Some level of difference is to be expected, but when this links to student characteristics then this can be a cause for concern.
The data shows that students with a disability tend to be less satisfied than average. Scores are still high overall, at 78%, but this is 5% lower than students with no disability – a significant difference. Students with a disability are also 7% less likely to be satisfied with student support – one area that is more strongly linked to overall satisfaction levels. While meeting the needs of disabled students can be challenging, our survey results highlight the importance of continuing to offer the right levels of support and adjust this according to specific need.
On a positive note, students from outside the EU tend to get the most from their experience. Satisfaction levels are extremely high, at 84%, and in a context where overseas students often represent a large proportion of the PG student base, and contribute significantly to revenue, this endorsement of their experience is particularly welcome.
Focus on retention
PTES 2017 included a question on whether students had considered leaving or suspending their studies, with 22% of students disclosing that they had. While this provides an indicative picture rather than a clear prediction of behaviour, the detailed results can be used by institutions to identify hot spots within their own provision where likelihood to leave may be higher than average.
As the graphic shows, there are some student types who are most vulnerable, in particular students with working commitments, distance learners and students who come from families with no previous university study. What these groups of students have in common is a need for greater support – either to help them balance commitments, to feel connected, or to better understand what is expected of them.
We look forward to PTES continuing to operate as the principle tool for benchmarking and enhancing the PGT student experience in the UK, and to working with an increasing range of institutions both in the UK and overseas to help benchmark performance and drive improvement. Registrations for PTES 2018 are still open so if you are looking to confirm or discuss your participation with the HEA please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.