Friday, March 4, 2016

Australian Universities Need to Learn from VET Sector to Improve Student Satisfaction

The 2015 Student Experience Survey National Report (QILT, 16 February 2016) shows no improvement in Australian University teaching over the previous year and a lower score than for US institutions. Australian higher education students scored the Quality of their entire educational experience at 80% for 2015, the same as 2014 (p. iv). This is much lower than for the USA and UK. I suggest that Australian universities need to learn from the VET sector the importance of trained teachers and systematic course design.

The survey includes Non-University Higher Education Institutions (NUHEIs), which are government TAFEs and private for-profit Registered Training Organizations (RTOs). Interestingly, the NUHEIs scored higher than universities on four out of five focus areas: Skills Development, Learner Engagement, Teaching Quality and Student Support. However, NUHEIs scored very much lower on the one other area, "Learning Resources" at 74%, compared to 86% for universities. This brought the NUHEIs overall score down to 78%, slightly lower than universities at 80% (p. v).

If universities were able to learn from NUHEIs, they could improve their student satisfaction above that of the USA and UK. Unfortunately university staff tend to not be able to accept that they can learn from TAFEs and private providers. This is most evident from the projects funded by the Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT), where funding is provided for universities to research areas of teaching. Unfortunately this "research" duplicates results already well know in the education literature and routinely applied in the vocational sector.

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