Happy students give top marks to college life
Students are broadly satisfied with college life, although significant minorities may not be getting the best from the experience.
The most comprehensive insight ever into how students view higher education has emerged in a new survey.
Students were asked over 100 questions covering a range areas, from satisfaction with college supports, to career readiness.
Among the key findings are that 72pc of students report positive relationships with teaching staff, finding them to be available, helpful and sympathetic.
The survey found that 79pc rated their educational experience at college as "good or excellent", while 76pc reported spending a significant amount of time studying and on academic work.
The survey is the start of a new process giving students a voice like never before to express their views on the third-level experience, with their feedback used to enhance quality.
The pilot survey, conducted earlier this year among first-year, final-year and post-graduate students in 26 publicly funded colleges, attracted over 12,700 responses.
It is a forerunner to the first system-wide study, the Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE), to be rolled out in 30 colleges in the spring.
The findings of the first survey show that while the majority of participants responded in a positive manner, the findings suggest that large numbers don't share that view or are not so sure. It found that:
* 62pc selected "often or very often", when asked if they were improving knowledge and skills that will contribute to their employability.
* 50pc reported "quite a bit, or very much" when asked if they were solving complex, real-world problems.
As Irish colleges seek to attract more international students, the researchers were keen to find out how Irish students were interacting with them, and found 58pc "often or very often" had conversations with students of a different ethnicity or nationality.
The ISSE is based on international best practice, and is not only a first for Ireland, but also a first in the EU.
The ISSE is a joint initiative between the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Institutes of Technology Ireland (IoTI), the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
HEA chief executive Tom Boland said the survey was a milestone that would "establish the student voice at the heart of higher education policy and practice."