No feedback loop, no way to improve (1 of 3)

March 15, 2012

Frank Furedi's typically provocative piece on student satisfaction surveys' malign influence on academic standards misses the point ("Satisfaction and its discontents", 8 March).

If the purpose of education is to light a flame rather than fill a vessel, then it behoves us to ensure that the flame is not immediately extinguished. Sadly, this is all too often the case if students are disengaged, ill-prepared or believe they do not have access to the academic and pastoral support they need to enable them to succeed.

It does not follow that student satisfaction - or engagement - surveys make education any less challenging or rigorous. Nor is it right to assume that their only purpose is to pander to needy consumers who expect a free ride through their education. Rather, as a result of the surveys, those of us working in higher education take the time to listen to, interpret and engage with students in order to better meet the needs of a much larger and more diverse student population.

Initiatives such as the National Student Survey and i-graduate's international polls help us to check engagement levels and identify expectations. They offer insights to the sector and help us to enhance student performance, providing graduates with the knowledge, attitude and skills necessary to thrive in a changing global environment.

In a world that demands much higher graduate-level skills and participation rates, there is an onus on the sector to ensure that the education we offer meets student need. How we propose to do that without engaging with those students and eliciting their feedback is beyond me.

Tim O'Brien, Director, INTO University Partnerships

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