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Science Guide: Quality from a student viewpoint

Original version of this article published by Science Guide 10 September 2013, available at

10 september 2013 – Students favour education that is characterized by ‘intrinsic value of knowledge’ over ‘consumerist views’, a new study of the European Students’ Union tells. And ‘more expensive’ doesn’t equal ‘better’.

University students expect first and foremost to gain a personal growth from higher education and to learn more about issues that they find to be interesting and are taught by specialists in each field. The European Students’ Union (ESU) published today the results of a new study, showing that students favour a higher education system that is characterized by a freedom to learn, teach and research.

An interest in a topic or a subject of study is the most important driving force in students’ choice to seek higher education, more than employment related factors such as having success on the labour market or gaining specific qualifications.

Least important to students are expectations from their families and their employment situation following their graduation from secondary education. However, the influence of parents and close friends is most important when students have to choose among higher education institutions or academic disciplines.

This is how students define quality

Over 90 percent of students agree that good study programmes give them additional knowledge and competences as well as broaden their horizons. A majority of the students do not think that the quality of their education would be better the more they would have to pay for it.

Around 85 percent of students say that they are given a chance to participate regularly in student evaluations. Half of them say that they get to see the results of those processes. A large majority of those students that see the results report that they have witnessed follow-up activities based on the evaluations.

More than half of the participants think that the evaluations do have an effect on the quality of their education. However, the respondents’ knowledge of quality assurance provisions was mostly confined to the institutional level and they had more or less no insight into European initiatives such as the European Standards and Guidelines (ESGs), the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR) or the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA).

More semesters finished, more interest

Demographic variables have a limited effect on students’ knowledge and awareness of quality mechanisms. Full-time students and those that take part in the work of student unions are generally more aware of quality assurance provisions, especially at an institutional level. The more semesters that students finish, the more they know about quality assurance.

Mapping interesting patterns

This study is published as a part of a three-year research project called Quest for Quality for Students, or QUEST for short. The project is run by ESU with financial support from the European Commission and will be brought to an end at the end of October, where a new concept for the quality of education will be presented based on students’ perspectives.

The survey examined the responses from over six thousand students in Germany, Latvia, Norway, Poland and Slovenia. It was distributed to students electronically with help from several higher education institutions based in those countries.

One of our goals throughout this project has been to raise awareness about the understanding of quality from students’ point of view.  QUEST has been able to perform a pan-European analysis on the students’ perceptions on the quality of higher education. The aim is to shed light on this field and to map interesting patterns that pave the way for further investigation. Thus, the findings can be taken into consideration and influence discussions on higher education, having a positive effect on it and improve its quality,” says Fernando Miguel Galán Palomares, ESU’s Vice-Chairperson and main coordinator of the project.


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