Exploring engagement for enhancement: The use of UKES

From the BLOG Higher Education Academy, 11th August, 2017.
To celebrate the launch of our new series of case studies on the HEA surveys from the voices of our survey officers, we’ll be publishing a number of partnering blogs exploring key themes and issues arising from the discussions.

In this issue,  Stephen Scott from St Mary’s University, Twickenham discusses the institution’s piloting and subsequent participation in UKES. Stephen has a strong interest in the potential of student engagement surveys after researching the National Survey of Student Engagement during his own postgraduate study. He strongly advocates the use of the UK Engagement Survey.

Student engagement surveys such as UKES (and the NSSE upon which UKES is based) enable institutions to explore how students are engaging with their studies, and what they are doing during their time studying. In this sense, the surveys go beyond measuring satisfaction in an attempt to explore the experience of the student as an active learner, rather than a passive consumer. To quote Graham Gibbs: “[the factors] that best predict [educational] gains are not to do with the facilities themselves, or to do with student satisfaction with these facilities, but concern a small range of fairly well-understood pedagogical practices that engender student engagement” (Gibbs, 2010, p.43). Student engagement is distinctive from involvement, and is considered as “educationally purposeful” (Harper & Quaye, 2009, p.6), requiring both action and feeling (Trowler, 2010).  

Research has shown student engagement to be linked to, among other things: skills development; personal, psychological and social development; positive self-image; and higher levels of retention (Harper & Quaye, 2009). These educational outcomes are likely to lead to students being better prepared for working life, and being more likely to persist during their degree. The responsibility for such engagement should therefore be shared between the institution and each student, with institutions looking to support students throughout their studies. UKES questions focus on student engagement, skills development, and time spent in difference activities. The results can be used to measure areas where students are spending their time engaging, and where they feel they are developing their skills (Neves, 2016).  Questions within UKES also ask students to reflect upon their own actions and how they can engage with their study.

The St Marys case study provides an example of the ways in which an institution can utilise and embed UKES in order to develop a better understanding of their undergraduate students’ experiences and inform institutional enhancements. Stephen’s case study, in his own words, can be found here.

Find out more about HEA Surveys.

Harper, S. R. & Quaye, S. J. (2009) Beyond sameness, with Engagement and Outcomes for All: An introduction (pp. 1-15) in S. R. Haprer & S.J. Quaye (Eds) Student engagement in higher education: Theoretical perspectives and practical approaches for Diverse Populations. New York: Routledge. Access 18/08/2017 http://ow.ly/M2Hn30evqah

Gibbs, G. (2010) Dimensions of quality. York: Higher Education Academy. Accessed 24/02/2017 from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/dimensions_of_quality.pdf

Neves, J. (2016) Student engagement and skills development: The UK Engagement Survey. York: Higher Education Academy. Accessed 18/08/2017 https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/downloads/ukes_2016_report_final_nov16.pdf 

Trowler, V. (2010) Student engagement literature review. York: Higher Education Academy. Accessed 24/02/2017 from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/studentengagementliteraturereview_1.pdf