|Subject: Another Reason G&M Report Card is BS:
|Traditionally, university students and administrators don´t always agree, but on the second annual University Report Card, a survey of student satisfaction published in today´s Globe and Mail, there´s consensus that the survey´s methodology renders the findings unreliable.
"It´s frustrating," says Ashley Morton, president of the undergraduate Students´ Administrative Council. "I´m not an expert but I have concerns about the methodology, especially when I see the same schools in the same city having widely different rankings in the category of opportunity for fun off campus. McGill is ranked #1 and Concordia is ranked #16 and they´re six blocks apart in Montreal. One of those numbers is incorrect so how many other numbers are unreliable?"
"Instead of a random sample, where all Canadian university students had an equal chance of being included in the survey, the Report Card uses a self-selected population, with the findings then applied to all students at the university," says David Farrar, vice-provost, students. "You can´t get a reliable picture of student satisfaction from this survey and that´s unfortunate because the more we know about our students, the more responsive we can be in our planning."
"The Report Card doesn´t reflect what students think," says Ranjini Ghosh, president of the Arts and Science Students Union (ASSU), which annually produces a student evaluation of arts and science courses and professors known as the Anti-Calendar. "In the Anti-Calendar survey, every arts and science student gets the chance to respond, while the Report Card was selective," she says. "Neither I nor the president of SAC heard anything about this survey until a month ago."
The Report Card survey sample consisted of some 26,000 students who logged on to studentawards.com, a website designed expressly for those seeking financial aid. The students were invited to answer more than 100 questions about student life on their respective campuses with the responses packaged into a ranking of those universities where more than 230 students responded. Only 38 of more than 93 universities and university colleges represented by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada were ranked in this year´s Report Card.
Farrar says that the student experience is a priority at U of T and is a major focus of the university´s emerging academic plan. The most rigorous look at student satisfaction in the university´s history is poised to begin this spring when U of T and seven other major Canadian research and teaching universities join some 600 U.S. universities in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). According to Farrar, the study is considered the authoritative benchmark on the quality of the student experience.
NSSE has been used in the U.S. for three years and has been refined to reflect current best-practice approaches to learning. Based on a random selection of first- and fourth-year students, the study asks them to rate their university on those approaches. It explores the breadth of student life including classroom experiences, relationships, course work, homework, student services and extra curricular activities. "It will help U of T identify where we´re succeeding and where there´s work to be done," says Farrar.
U of T already routinely conducts a number of student surveys and the findings reflect substantial satisfaction with U of T.
ASSU´s Anti-Calendar course evaluations look at more than 100,000 course evaluations. The ASSU student surveys consistently show that the average rating of U of T professors by the students who have taken their course is good/very good, with an average rating of 5.5 on a 7-point scale. When students were asked if they would have taken the course knowing what they know now, more than 70 per cent said yes."
In another survey, by the U.S.-based Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium, graduate students at U of T give very high marks to the quality of their academic program, and a solid majority is satisfied with overall student life. According to the survey, 92 per cent of U of T respondents rate their programs as good, very good or excellent, and 80 per cent would choose U of T again.
In the Office of Student Services, every department does an annual satisfaction survey and students rank all services very highly in terms of relevancy and responsiveness
"There´s a lot of choice at U of T, says SAC´s Morton, "in terms of courses, professors and clubs. We have more student clubs per student than most universities in North America. U of T´s size can be viewed as a problem to some, but that´s part of what makes U of T great. The university´s challenge is to make sure students know about all the options they have, but it´s also up to the students themselves to get out there and make connections. "Until I got involved," he adds, "I didn´t know all there was to do at U of T."
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