It is difficult to find a university in Australia or internationally that does not promise a unique and rewarding student experience. Yet there is growing evidence that many universities are not delivering on this intent, and the pressure to improve the student experience is steadily increasing. In addition to competition from universities and other providers, students themselves expect more from universities, given the rising cost of education and their experience as customers elsewhere.
Regulators are upping their game. In Australia, the Commonwealth Government aims to ‘put student outcomes at the centre of learning’ by basing funding for universities on performance. Universities that deliver an outstanding student experience will be rewarded.
Key Connections in University create an enhanced Student Experience.
Student to Student Connection:
The most innovative universities are encouraging student-to-student connections by early interactions for prospective and new students. Some are actively connecting prospective students with recent alumni to advise them on what it’s really like at the university.
Innovative digital approaches to encouraging student-to-student connection are moving away from information provision through apps and websites, to platform provision, allowing students space to connect and co-create their own virtual campus – like ‘Facebook’ for your university and the like.
Social media provides a medium for students, parents, faculty and staff alike, to ask questions and provide feedback. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in the USA encourages their community to shape their Lifelong Learning Program by submitting and up-voting suggestions about pressing topics and societal challenges they’d like Wharton to address.
Student to Industry Connection:
Many students highly prioritise future employment prospects. Indeed, some students evaluate their student experience by the extent to which it helps them reach their career goals.
Forming industry connections help students stay engaged with their studies. If learning is perceived to be different from the real world students will feel disengaged and show less interest.
Universities should encourage or facilitate more real world teachings in the classroom including internships or partnerships with businesses.
For Example, UNSW’s Student life internship program. The Student Life Internship Program provides domestic students with preference of those who come from disadvantaged or nontraditional backgrounds the opportunity to participate in ‘paid work while you learn’.
Student to Community Connection:
Students’ time at university should be characterised by a challenging environment and personal growth. The best student experience encourages a reflective approach to development across all engagements with university life.
Universities need to focus on manifesting values in the journey of the student. Values can manifest themselves through study, leadership, volunteering and work-integrated learning. These connections cement a student’s sense of belonging and purpose.
Student to University Connection:
A university can grow the relationship with its alumni beyond graduation, but success will depend on whether graduates reflect positively on their student experience. Universities should aim to produce graduates for whom leaving is a bittersweet experience, and who want to stay connected.
What does improving student experience mean for your university?
Improving student experience could mean increasing student retention and recruitment, as well as opening up more funding options for the university.
Professor Robert Allison, Vice-Chancellor & President at Loughborough University, UK ranked number 1 in the Times Student Experience Survey will be sharing his insights on “Formalising a holistic strategy for a successful student experience”. Don’t miss his presentation at the 5th Annual Enhancing Student Experience Conference on the 10th and 11th of April in Melbourne.