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The Student Mirror 2007

The Student Mirror — undergraduate education from the students´ perspective

The Student Mirror (Studentspegeln in Swedish) is a study of different quality aspects in undergraduate education. It sets out from the students´ perspective and is based on a survey which is largely a repeat of the corresponding study from 2002. The survey was sent out at the end of April 2006, to 11,119 students at all of the country´s university colleges, with the exception of the artistic university colleges. The study is intended as a complement to the Swedish quality assurance system.

Reliable results

The results are based on statistical processing of the survey replies in the form of an explorative factor analysis. The factor analysis has generated six different dimensions which sum up a large part of the Student Mirror´s questions. The dimensions have been entitled Education and Values; Analytical Thinking; Student Collaboration; Communication for Learning; Read, Write, Present; and Teacher Support.

The results of the factor analysis indicate that students have replied consistently and reflectively. The response share is 57 per cent, which is judged to be sufficient for guaranteeing the statistical reliability of the results.
Supplementary questions concern such things as how much time students devote to their studies, what demands are made on students, what their motives are for studying, how common studies abroad are, and if the law of equal treatment works.

Happy students

Students´ motives for studying include both personal interest and the ambition to improve their possibilities in the labour market. They are very happy with their university college and their education. As in the 2002 Student Mirror, 84 per cent state that they would choose the same university or university college if they had an opportunity to choose again. Just over 90 per cent rate their programme as “good" or “very good". Despite this, there are also results which show that undergraduate education does not work satisfactorily for all students.

Studies demand ability to analyse

The questions included in the Analytical Thinking dimension deal with the extent to which studies are perceived as developing students´ ability to make independent and critical assessments, and their ability to identify, formulate and solve problems independently. For the majority of students, these things are said to work satisfactorily, now as in 2002. However, there has been a marked decline in mathematics and natural sciences, as well as in other technological programmes.

Less student collaboration in humanities and theology

When students collaborate with each other to solve problems and explore new areas, this provides valuable training which can be an aid to learning and a preparation for future collaboration in professional life. The Student Collaboration dimension attempts to capture the extent of students´ collaboration with each other. Collaboration is perceived as working satisfactorily by a majority of the students. The average result is about the same as it was in the 2002 survey. Students in the humanities and theology still perceive a low level of student collaboration.

Teacher support seen as weak

The outcomes for Communication for Learning and Teacher Support are not as positive. These dimensions are about the relationship between students and teachers, and the results paint a fairly negative picture. Communication for Learning can be said to be about the ongoing campus dialogue, while Teacher Support covers different aspects of teachers´ support in learning. In both cases, support appears to be scant. However, there has been one positive change compared with 2002. The results also show that teachers do not see exams as part of the learning process.

Ability to value and attitude

Personal development is part of the purpose of higher education, and this applies both to undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. One aspect of personal development is about increasing the ability to reflect over one´s own values; another aspect is broadened general knowledge. In the overall social objective for higher education there is also the expectation that education will contribute to the development of democracy and create understanding between groups. This is what the questions in the Education and Values are about.

The results for Education and Values show great variation between different subject areas. This pattern was also evident in 2002, and has proven to apply both to undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Students in the MSc engineering, other technological programmes and the mathematics and natural sciences categories have a much lower perception than other students that their education contributes to making them reflect about their own values. This dimension shows a certain positive change on 2002 for most education areas, particularly for humanities and theology, teacher training and other programmes.

Oral presentations rare

To read, write and present are fundamental elements of studies on most higher education programmes. In the theoretical part of the programme, these activities are expected to be the main tools for learning, and they therefore occur to a great extent. The Read, Write, Present dimension attempts to measure this. Oral presentations, it turns out, play a minor role in higher education. This result largely conforms with the 2002 survey. Students on teacher training programmes, who scored highest in this dimension, have increased their lead on students on most other programmes. Above all, these students do more oral presentations and read more books and compendiums from the reading list. Health care and dispensing chemist programmes also score highly.

Full-time studies increasingly seen as less than full-time

Nearly 40 per cent of students who are registered for full-time studies do not perceive them as a full-time occupation, which is an increased share compared with 2002. However, there are big differences between different education areas. The biggest share of students who perceive their studies as a full-time occupation are in the medical, dentistry, pharmacist, MSc engineering, health care and dispensing chemist programmes, and programmes at the SwedishUniversity of Agricultural Sciences. In keeping with this, it is also the students on these programmes who state that they devote most time to their studies. There is a slight increase on2002 inthe number of students who do salary-paying work in parallel with their studies, even if they are registered for 20 credit points per term. Almost one fifth of students state that demands imposed by their studies are too low. In all areas of education, a larger share of men than of women perceive their studies as imposing insufficient demands. The amount of time spent on preparation and on participation in taught input is also higher for women than for men, irrespective of education area, according to the responses to the survey.

Studies abroad

Besides the 11 per cent of students who have already been abroad for more than two months, there are 14 per cent who believe that they will study abroad for a period exceeding two months sometime in the future. Just under 10 per cent state that they have spent a shorter period of time studying abroad.

Discrimination on the basis of gender not uncommon

Among the female students on medical, dentistry and pharmacist programmes, 34 per cent state that they have experienced gender-based discrimination at some time during their studies. In total, 13 per cent of women and 7 per cent of men had experienced gender-based discrimination.
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