Management of Student Expectations

Oct 23, 2019

Managing university student expectations and the QAA report

In an age in which university students are required to pay high tuition fees it is not surprising that the weight of expectation placed on a university is growing. Students will be highly aware of the financial investment that their decision to continue in education represents, and so expect to receive a good outcome both in terms of quality and value for money. Is it worth £9000?

As a consequence of this, the university professionals we work with often talk about a fundamental shift in the dynamic between students, their tutors and professional services staff.

Issues around university student expectations are explored in depth in a report which was commissioned by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and conducted at King’s College London * The report contains a wealth of qualitative information, and is recommended reading for anyone with an interest in enhancing the level of student satisfaction in higher education.

Readers of the report will be able to draw their conclusions from it, but here are three points which university staff might want to consider when devising a constructive approach to managing university student expectations:

1. Identify and Address Student Priorities
More than ever university professionals need to talk to their students directly and openly about what they hope to accomplish by participating in their chosen course and what they consider their priorities to be and incorporate this feedback into the design and delivery of the courses and on offer.

2. Provide Constructive, Actionable Feedback
Students value clarity, so ensuring that all coursework has a clear purpose and is supported by sufficient resources is vital. If students underperform in a task a consistent approach to providing constructive feedback and pragmatic advice to improve is vitally important .

3. Favour Small Working Groups
Students consistently express a preference for working in smaller groups. While this can sometimes be impractical for both economic and logistical reasons, scheduling discussion meetings or similar activities in smaller groups whenever possible can have a significant impact on student satisfaction, even if only on just a few occasions throughout the course.

These are three points that can be addressed at a school/department level. There are also organisational level structural and resource issues that universities need to address in order to keep meeting high student expectations, taking a proactive and co-ordinated approach to address these issues.

Higher education is changing rapidly. How are you meeting expectations?
*Download the QAA Report here

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