How University for the Creative Arts Transformed the First-Term Survey Process

Watch Professor Sarah Clark, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience), and Aimee Clark, Head of Quality & Standards, at the University for the Creative Arts as they detail the approach taken to improving the first-term survey process and student induction.

Read our summary of the presentation below.

Helping students to succeed

As everyone in the higher education sector knows, the first term of the new academic year is a critical time as students settle in and start engaging in their studies and student life.

Ensuring that students, and first-year students in particular, feel secure and know where to access support as needed is a huge focus area for institutions as they seek to help students engage and be successful on their learning journeys.

At the recent evasys Data and Insights event, colleagues from University for the Creative Arts (UCA) presented on their approach to induction and first term surveys, including details of enhancements made to the process that have reaped real results.

Flipping the timing of surveys to better help students

For a long time, UCA operated end of year surveys based on National Student Survey (NSS) questions for undergraduate and postgraduate data collection, but found that response rates were diminishing and survey fatigue was setting in.

In addition, it wasn’t really clear internally what the purpose of the data was, what the institution should be doing with it and how it was impacting the student experience. With planned changes to the NSS question set, the team at UCA reconsidered their approach and the first-term survey was introduced, sent to students of all levels within the first six weeks of the new academic year. The focus was on wellbeing and signposting, aimed at addressing issues being highlighted through retention data.

The survey system initially used wasn’t sophisticated and the processing of results was manual. With minimal availability of staff resource for both the end of year and first-term surveys, this manual analysis meant long delays in the publication of results, which then had a knock-on effect on time taken to effect changes to make improvements.

With more courses and greater numbers of students joining the university, UCA also planned to move to undertaking unit level evaluations as part of the quality framework, with the unit level providing the granular foundations that then feed up into course and school monitoring. This would provide the ability to monitor and enhance at all levels and different stages of the student lifecycle.

The move from a manual to an automated survey system was needed, and the UCA team deployed evasys to speed up the process and provide fast, actionable insights to benefit staff and students alike.

Partnership with University for the creative arts featured

From manual to automated for super-fast analysis and action

When UCA implemented evasys, it enabled monitoring of surveys by academic staff, rather than professional services, providing a shared ownership of the data that impacted students in a positive way. Academic staff can react much faster to the insights instead of waiting for the quality and standards team to do the processing, meaning that the feedback loop with students can be closed promptly via lecturer reflections, whilst the quality and standards team can focus on the aggregated reporting that leads to enhancement across units, courses,  schools and institution-wide.

The first-term survey was very local and targeted to students, enabling swift actions to help students settle in, feel secure and know where to access support as needed. The new evasys system quickly flagged issues that may have been missed by students during the induction process, helping to monitor changes needed to induction and getting students the information they need when they need it.

With the move away from NSS-style questions, the UCA first-term survey is tailored to each year group and each course, and focuses on how students feel. UCA wants students to be nurtured, checked in on, signposted to support and feel that they belong, both on their course and at the institution. The survey also monitors how UCA is performing in terms of clear communication, and whether the institution is delivering what it said it would.

The results of an improved, automated survey process at UCA

In terms of results, response rates have improved from 15.5% to 45%, with the aim of pushing this even higher with each survey iteration. Results have also shown that students think highly of UCA and their experiences there; 90% of students who responded to the survey did so positively.

With the implementation of evasys, UCA is now triangulating not only NSS-style data, but also student retention, continuation and attendance, all of which are key to the quality of delivery. With the new unit survey approach using evasys, the data collected makes it quick and easy to gauge and understand the temperature of a course and how successful it is. Unit level surveys provide a continuous monitoring and evaluation process, rather than the previous annual process, and quality improvement plans are reviewed three times a year. The institution now shares best practices gleaned from the unit level surveys between courses and schools about what is working really well.


Survey response rates improved from 15.5% to 45%

The feedback from students on closing the loop has been extremely positive, and they feel that their voices are being heard. Based on survey responses, the induction sessions have been enhanced and refresher inductions are now made available as students continue their learning journey. Any issues that are flagged around induction through the first-term survey are now addressed very quickly.

All in all, a fantastic success story from UCA. The full presentation from Sarah Clark and Aimee Clark is well worth a watch to get a wider understanding of the processes used to improve surveys and, ultimately, student engagement.

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All in all, a fantastic success story from UCA. The full presentation from Sarah Clark and Aimee Clark is well worth a watch to get a wider understanding of the processes used to improve surveys and, ultimately, student engagement.

Share This Case Study!