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Survey synthesis guides priorities, finds students basically satisfied

Survey synthesis guides priorities, finds students basically satisfied

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As part of its integrated planning process, the University of Saskatchewan has worked through data from 10 years of university-wide surveys. The result is the Survey Synthesis, which provides 10 fact sheets covering all facets of the university experience. “It is our hope that initiatives like this one will ensure that the student voice is included in the university planning process at all levels,” said assistant provost Pauline Melis in the introduction to the document.

“Your voice has been heard over and over again in the university planning process,” Melis assured undergraduate students at a meeting of University Students’ Council. One of those student concerns, and university concerns, is interdisciplinary work.

While individual colleges are self-contained and are, in general, achieving their goals for innovation and education, the goal of the Survey Synthesis is to improve the university as a cohesive unit.

“My little college is really solid,” said archaeology student Rebecca Jackson, “but it would be good if maybe they encouraged more work between classical, medieval, and Renaissance studies, history and us. We have a lot of common ground.”

The results revealed in the Survey Synthesis aren’t particularly surprising, but they help guide university planning priorities.

In one of the most promising results, 86 to 91 per cent of students reported that they were satisfied with the quality of education at the U of S. Those results were culled from 2002 to 2010. However, in 2008 a third of undergraduates mentioned “emphasis on teaching ability (excellence)” as needing improvement.

Overall, undergraduates preferred classroom instruction with web support elements and classes that blended hands-on learning with self directed learning and discussion.

The planning process started in 2002 with the first integrated plan, a visioning document inspired by student concerns over the value of a U of S degree. In the late ’90s, students expressed worry and confusion over the value of their degrees compared to other universities.

By combining data from Canadian University Survey Consortium, National Survey of Student Engagement and the Canadian University Report, the university has been able to use student feedback to shape and evaluate the direction of the university’s goals.

For this integrated plan, targeted areas will include increasing tricouncil funding in all departments of the university. Right now, that funding — which comes from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research — is unevenly distributed.

The College of Agriculture, for example, is the primary research facility for the provincial government in Saskatchewan. It gets most of its funding through the province.

“The funding is not as peer-reviewed, and we want to have more of that,” said Melis. An NSERC grant, by contrast, is only granted under peer review.

The other new directions for the university include raising the grad student enrollment to 20 per cent of the total enrollment by 2015, and increasing Aboriginal enrollment by 2020.

The U of S already excels in Aboriginal enrollment, and there have been concerted efforts across campus to focus on elements of Aboriginal education. Citing University of Victoria’s extremely low Aboriginal enrollment, Melis added that “we continue to outshine everyone” in that regard, but there is room for improvement.

image: Pete Yee/The Sheaf

This piece first appeared in The Sheaf - The University of Saskatchewan Newspaper Since 1912.

Students' Council: Feb. 17, 2011

Students' Council: Feb. 17, 2011

Panel: Female voice important to political discourse

Panel: Female voice important to political discourse