A PGT National Student Survey: Top-Down Meets Bottom-Up for a Balanced View

By Dr Helena Lim, Academic Lead and Head of Opportunities

Richard Puttock’s recent Wonkhe article highlighting the need for a Postgraduate Taught National Student Survey (PGT NSS) got me thinking about the potential benefits and limitations of such a survey. While I agree that a PGT NSS could provide valuable insights, I also believe that its top-down approach should be complemented by the granular data provided by module evaluations.

Dr Helena Lim evasys head of opportunities

Dr Helena Lim, Academic Lead and Head of Opportunities

A PGT NSS could be a powerful tool for benchmarking institutions, identifying sector-wide strengths and weaknesses, and informing national policy decisions. It would give students a platform to voice their opinions and hold universities accountable for the quality of their programmes. However, the survey’s top down focus on overall satisfaction and broad programme features may not reveal the specific factors influencing individual module experiences.

Module evaluation offers insights from the bottom up

This is where module evaluations shine. By gathering feedback on specific aspects like teaching, learning, assessment and resources within each module, universities can pinpoint areas for improvement with greater precision.

This granular data can help identify which modules are consistently delivering high-quality experiences, which ones need tweaking, and which ones require a complete overhaul. It can also highlight specific teaching practices or assessment methods that are particularly effective or ineffective.

Furthermore, module evaluations can provide valuable insights into the diverse needs and preferences of different student groups. For example, feedback from international students might reveal challenges related to language support or cultural adjustment, while feedback from part-time students might highlight issues related to workload management or access to resources. This information can help universities tailor their programmes to better meet the needs of all their students.

Of course, module evaluations have their limitations. They may be subject to response bias, with students who have had particularly positive or negative experiences being more likely to participate. Additionally, the quality of feedback can vary depending on the design of the evaluation and the willingness of students to provide detailed and constructive comments.

A multi-pronged approach to data collection and analysis

To maximise the benefits of both PGT NSS and module evaluations, universities should adopt a multi-pronged approach to data collection and analysis. By combining the broad insights from a national survey with the detailed feedback from module evaluations, institutions can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the student experience and make more targeted improvements to their programmes.

As a provider of module and programme evaluation software, we believe that our tools can play a crucial role in helping universities collect and analyse this valuable data. Our platform allows institutions to easily create and administer customised module evaluations, gather feedback in a variety of formats, generate detailed reports that highlight key trends and areas for improvement, and provide internal benchmarking at module level and through different organisational and student characteristics. By leveraging our technology, universities can empower their students, enhance their programmes, and ultimately deliver a more enriching and rewarding postgraduate experience

Dr Helena Lim evasys head of opportunitiesDr Helena Lim, Academic Lead and Head of Opportunities, evasys

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