From their views on curriculum and lecturers, to WiFi, accommodation and the sports and leisure facilities available at a university, different student groups have different expectations. Domestic and international students have different needs, which vary depending on whether they are undergraduates or postgraduates, in Arts, IT, Business or Science. So the only way to truly understand their full range of opinions is to regularly ask for student feedback. Of course, it’s how the university responds to this student voice that really influences student satisfaction – and one university in Malaysia, Sunway University, is leading the way by using the i-graduate Student Barometer.
Ranked among the top 2% of institutions in Asia, Sunway University is a not-for-profit private university that collaborates and partners with some world leading institutions such as Harvard University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Lancaster University, and Le Cordon Bleu, a prestigious culinary arts institution.
The university has invested in excess of RM400 million in its infrastructure over the last five years, providing new research spaces and expanding its teaching and learning to provide the best possible student experience.
Director of University Services at Sunway University, Siti Fariza Mohd Dahlan, explains how this investment is helping the university address issues that really matter to students:
“Of course, different factors influence different student groups. For example, for students who are just out of high school and living away from home for the first time like most of our international students, personal safety is important to them. So, students and their parents need the assurance that we take campus security seriously here at Sunway. ‘Employability’ and earning potential are top priorities for other groups of students, especially for our diploma and degree students – and we have a five-star QS rating for it.”
“My team’s primary role is to ensure that operational and customer service excellence is delivered across all of the university’s administrative and support services, including academic support services. One of the ways we analyse how well we’re doing is to consistently ask for student feedback.”
Sunway University tracks and benchmarks student opinions across the entire student journey, comparing student satisfaction across different student groups to identify specific areas for improvement, which then form part of the university’s Action Plan.
As the University Services team is responsible for implementing the University’s operational strategies, and facilitating the effective stewardship of its resources, Fariza has been keen to champion smart ways of gathering and analysing student feedback, and to implement best practice frameworks.
Prior to 2012, the method of surveying students was entirely manual, with students receiving a hard copy of the Student Survey in the classroom. The overhead required to analyse the feedback meant that Sunway University could only survey students biennially and the turnaround time to produce the analysis was long. Keen to change this process, Sunway University deployed i-graduate’s Student Barometer, the world’s largest student survey that takes a customised approach, giving all students from all fields and levels of study the chance to voice their opinions.
Student Barometer automates semi-standardised online questionnaires that can be formatted, adapted and customised to different institutions. Running September to December, students are questioned about their arrival, learning, living, support, recommendation, application and choice of institution. The results are then analysed in detail, and i-graduate Student Barometer global benchmarks are produced, based over a two-year period.
Whilst initially Sunway University faced the challenge of low responses to the digital survey, the University was quick to implement new strategies that encouraged students to respond and have their voices heard, so that in 2018, 42% of all students responded.
Inviting students to share their opinions in two ways, Student Barometer uses multiple choice and open comments to generate insights. Whilst the open comments take the University Services team a much longer time to analyse than the quantitative data, it’s here they glean intimate detail about how students are really feeling about their experience at Sunway. Fariza explains:
“We gather a lot of data to track, across a number of key areas. What’s really heartening is that we are seeing improvement, year on year. For example, with our Finance Services; in the early years of Student Barometer results, we detected opportunities to improve the Finance Services. Having made changes to the services on offer, and providing continuous training to this team, our Finance Services department is now ranked Number 1 in Malaysia in the Student Barometer. It’s proof that the open dialogue that we have with students is bringing about positive change.”
A key part of the analyses for the University Services team is to ensure they group qualitative data together to identify key themes in the feedback. It takes only a few days to analyse statistical data using Fariza’s well-developed methods, honed over the last five years, and a further month to complete the feedback loop. Each department is given the results and comments relating to their area so that the team can create an Action Plan for improvement. Fariza and her team then follows-up with detailed responses on each of the feedback themes:
“Publishing the results in detail and sharing our Action Plan with our Student Council helps to demonstrate that we are taking the Student Barometer results seriously. It shows we truly value the student feedback we get.”
“One of the best things about asking students what they think about your services is that they are truly frank in their opinion! If you have areas of weak WiFi in parts of your campus, you’ll know about it! WiFi is like air to students and our IT team is now very serious about improving connectivity across the university. At Sunway we are committed to ensuring that we provide a quality student experience, and students are getting good value for money.”
Since 2014, Sunway University has tracked significant improvement in student satisfaction levels, with its sports facilities up by 40% (having added a FIFA certified synthetic turfed football field and new tennis courts!), the campus environment up by nearly 30% and physical library and learning spaces up by 20%. Fariza adds:
“The Student Barometer is also helping us improve teaching and learning year on year. Feedback on pedagogical approaches and curriculum guide our Schools and Academic Enhancement Division in continuously improving our education quality and in providing the right knowledge and training to programme leaders and our lecturers.”
Fariza and her team work closely with their Tribal consultant, Guy Perring, to present their findings to the EXCO and University Management Committee, recommending where investments and improvements should be made to further enhance their market-leading student services:
“I cannot recommend i-graduate Student Barometer highly enough – and not just for the significant time-savings it provides. It generates a wealth of data, and when you zoom in on the details of the student feedback, you’ll see just how valuable this tool is. For example, we used the feedback this year to improve the integration of our international students with the local students. Some of the improvements we have implemented were suggestions from the students themselves. Student feedback plays a pivotal role in improving the overall student experience in the University.”
Sunway University out-performs the average Malaysian university in overall satisfaction terms by nearly 7.5% (92.9% to 85.5%). And it’s clear to see why.
Find out more about best practice Student Feedback frameworks and how the i-graduate Student Barometer could improve your university’s domestic and international profile – download the brochure.
Or contact your regional ISB Consultant, firstname.lastname@example.org +60123793503.