What do students understand by 'quality' in higher education? And just how much influence do students have in the design and delivery of their education?
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) is funding two research projects: one to explore the extent of student engagement in the UK today, and one that will investigate how students perceive the issues that affect the quality of their education.
Chris Taylor, QAA's Student Engagement Manager explains: 'It is said that students are becoming increasingly demanding and that quality is the issue that will drive student choice.
'These projects will put some of these assumptions to the test. To develop a quality assurance system that meets the needs of the students it serves, we must have a clear understanding of what students want, and what institutions are already doing to engage them.'
The first project, in collaboration with King’s College London, will focus on student perceptions of quality and standards.
Camille Kandiko, who leads the project team at King’s, says: 'This project offers illustrative examples of issues affecting students today, using interviews with students to explore their expectations and perceptions of the quality of their learning experience.
'Conducted at 16 institutions in different regions of the UK, the findings will provide a model for student engagement and a vehicle for student voice.'
The second project, in conjunction with the University of Bath, will chart efforts by universities and colleges to engage their students in quality assurance processes.
Gwen van der Velden, project lead and Director of Learning and Teaching Enhancement at Bath explains: 'Our research maps students' role in quality mechanisms across institutions in the UK. Through our research, we aim to provide evidence to inform future QAA policy on student engagement.
'In our fast changing higher education environment, understanding how the student voice can inform the best possible educational experience is crucial.'
The two projects will report on their findings later this year. Chris Taylor concludes: 'These projects will give us up-to-date information, and real examples from students and providers, that will influence the way we work with students at QAA. More significantly, we hope the findings will inform policy and practice across the UK.'
For more information about the research projects, visit www.qaa.ac.uk/Partners/students/projects.
Research and development