Student perceptions of quality in higher education : effect of year of study, gender and ethnicity

Dicker, R, Garcia, M, Kelly, A, Modabber, P, O'Farrell, A, Pond, A, Pond, N and Mulrooney, HM (2017) Student perceptions of quality in higher education : effect of year of study, gender and ethnicity. New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences, 12(1), ISSN (print) 2051-3615


Student expectations with regard to what comprises quality in higher education can impact upon their learning, engagement and overall satisfaction. Perceptions of quality are not always clearly articulated and may vary by gender, ethnicity and year of study. In this study, undergraduate students completed a questionnaire indicating whether they agreed, disagreed or were unsure about 15 statements related to quality in higher education. A total of 340 students across four year groups participated (Levels 3-6), with more female than male participants and a range of ethnicities represented. There was broad unanimity in the recognition of the importance of both teaching and learning and relationships with academic staff in defining quality. Overall, there were low levels of satisfaction with the amount of contact with academic staff and uncertainty about whether students thought they were getting a high quality education. Some differences in relation to support services were seen in different ethnic groups, and more males than females were satisfied with support services although this varied by year group, and student numbers were small. These results suggest the importance of clearly articulating what is available in terms of support (academic, pastoral, study and health) to all students. The teaching and learning experience, and relationships with academic staff are clearly important and given the uncertainty about overall perceptions of quality, these aspects need to be highlighted to students so that they understand the value of what they are receiving.

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