Graduates can spur reform

August 6, 2004

Twenty thousand Scottish further and higher education students completing their studies this summer are being asked to take part in a survey that could transform university and college courses.

The Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Councils have commissioned pollsters MORI Scotland and the Critical Thinking consultancy to track the students over five years to discover what aspects of their post-school education had the greatest impact on their future.

Helen Gibson, senior policy officer at the Scottish funding councils, said institutions were increasingly concerned about how best to meet learners' needs.

"There is a recognition that learners themselves can give a certain amount of feedback when going through institutions," she said.

"But of even greater quality would be information that people can feed back when they go out into the world and can reflect on what the learning experience offered them."

The students will be asked to complete questionnaires this year, and in 2005, 2007 and 2009.

Questions in the first study include the main reasons for taking a particular course, whether they ever considered dropping out, what the best and most difficult aspects of university or college life have been, and what work experience they have.

They are also asked to indicate which advice was most useful in helping them plan what to do next, what was most influential in how they changed during their course, whether particular skills - ranging from report writing to budgeting - had improved or got worse. They will also be quizzed on how crucial school qualifications, the college or university they attended and the things they did outside their course had been in getting a job.

The £220,000 "On Track: Class of 2004" study aims to discover what types of skills and experience are most valuable to learners in the longer term, whether there are common barriers to career progression and further study, to what extent people go back to formal learning later, and what motivates this.

As an incentive to students to complete the study, ten people in each survey will win £50, with those completing all four going into a draw for £500.

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