Enhancing the student experience at public universities: Following an indication by the TLSG, that enhancing students’ learning experiences was not receiving adequate attention through the Quality Enhancement Project (QEP) of the CHE or the initiatives within the Staffing South African Universities Framework (SSAUF) of the DHET, the USAf Office was mandated to collect information on initiatives undertaken at institutions to assess students’ learning experience as an initial step.
Eleven universities responded to the survey and a draft report was tabled at the TLSG meeting in May 2017. The report indicates that 88% of these institutions do assess undergraduate students’ learning experiences but for different purposes. Most of the surveys have the intention of improving the quality of teaching and learning or, more broadly, the curriculum. One response referred to surveys as ‘developmental’ and ‘a useful professional learning tool’ with ‘reciprocal benefits for both lecturers and students’, including encouraging lecturers to ‘reflect critically’ and to ‘celebrate best practice’, but also for institutions to understand the holistic student experience. It emerged that many of these institutions also make use of the South African Survey of Student Engagement (SASSE) undertaken annually by the Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of the Free State. The SASSE gathers comprehensive information relating to the extent of student participation in effective educational practices as part of the teaching and learning experience. The TLSG submitted that undertaking a national survey that could provide national indicators would be useful. However, as opposed to USAf taking a lead on that survey it was decided that USAf should rather optimise existing expertise and explore collaboration with the UFS’s Centre for Teaching and Learning to provide aggregated data reports for the sector.
Periodic reports in this regard are envisaged to be rolled out from the first quarter in 2018.