University student satisfaction
Developing notes about theory and research on university student satisfaction. May be of interest to those completing the SRD Lab report exercise but also to others. Feel free to contribute.
Education is a key driver of economic growth, particularly the higher education sector. With the higher education sector becoming an increasingly competitive market, university student satisfaction has become an important component of quality assurance. Thomas and Galambos (2004) argue that students are regarded as consumers of higher education. University students’ satisfaction is important to institutional success in that effective institutions have satisfied ‘customers’ because this satisfaction supports the enrolment of additional students or ‘customers’. Ratings of student satisfaction are becoming more transparent and readily available. For example, see https://www.qilt.edu.au. As a result, most universities around the world are constantly looking at how to improve the satisfaction of students at their institution.
University students' satisfaction with their institution has individual, institutional and social implications. From an institutional point of view, satisfied students are more likely to continue in their studies (retention) and are more likely to succeed academically and this is likely to enhance the financial position and reputation of the institution. Satisfied students also make effective public relations agents. High student satisfaction helps in attracting and retaining high achievers who in turn increase the reputation and standing of the university.
Maintaining and improving students’ satisfaction has been considered an important goal of education and universities (Orpen, 1990), with the assumption that student satisfaction is indicative of institutional effectiveness (Barton, 1978). A key factor of student satisfaction is the quality of the teaching staff. As a result, the use of student rating scales as an evaluative component of their teaching system has increased. The majority, if not all, teaching staff at most universities have been required or expected to administer some type of teaching evaluation form to their students during each course offering for some time (Seldin, 1993).
Assessing student satisfaction provides a way that universities can focus directly on issues of quality development in order to ensure that educational standards are high (Wiers-Jenssen, Stensaker, & Grogaard, 2002). Measures of student satisfaction can also assist in identifying and implementing areas for development.
Universities initially set up satisfaction surveys to serve two purposes: to help administrators monitor teaching quality and to help teaching staff improve on their teaching. University student satisfaction surveys are being used today in more ways than ever before (Kulik, 2001). For example, to evaluate the quality and availability of the library resources, to assess whether there is sufficient IT assistance and support for students and to consider student opinions on the social aspects of university life to name a few.
Many teachers approve of the increased use of satisfaction surveys in universities. Teaching staff view these surveys as reliable and valid measures that bring methodical precision to the evaluation of teaching. However, not all teachers share this view. Some teachers view students’ satisfaction surveys as meaningless quantification. Teaching staff fear that students too often abuse this anonymous power to get even or get back at teaching staff and warn that satisfaction surveys may turn the evaluation of effective teaching into a personality contest (Kulik, 2001).
Several theories have been proposed in an effort to better understanding the psycho-social dynamics of student satisfaction. For example, the “happy-productive” student theory (Cotton, Dollard, & de Jonge, 2002) suggests that student satisfaction is mediated by psycho-social factors such as coping, stress and well-being. It provides evidence wherein high levels of psychological distress at university is related to lower satisfaction.
The "investment model" explains the relationship between student satisfaction, attrition and academic performance. Satisfaction increases when the rewards of study increase (higher grades). When costs like financial and time constraints are lower and alternate options are study are low, satisfaction was higher (Hatcher, Kryter, Prus, & Fitzgerald, 1992). Using the investment model, students at risk for "dropping-out" can be identified and offered counselling and other student support services as a preventative measure. To improve retention rates and the quality of graduates, universities need to consider the satisfaction needs of students including those currently under-represented such as non-traditional, indigenous and regional Australians (Bradley, 2009).
A third theoretical approach, based on consumer satisfaction theory, considers satisfaction as a function of the extent to which students' expectations about university are met with positive confirmations of expectations leading to higher levels of satisfaction (Churchill & Suprenant, 1982).
Understanding the underlying dimensions of student satisfaction and the factors that contribute to student satisfaction has several potential benefits and applications for institutions, students, and society.
Several studies have examined the dimensionality of university student satisfaction (e.g., Elliott & Healy, 2001; Wiers-Jenssen, Stensaker & Grøgaard, 2002).
Overall, some fairly consistent factors tend to emerge:
- Education quality - course content and staff teaching
- Social aspects and/or opportunities
- Facilities and resources of the campus (DeVore & Handal, 1981; Garcia-Aracil, 2009).
Okun et al. (1981) and Okun, Kardash, Stock, Sandler and Baumann (1986) simply extracted two university student satisfaction factors:
- Academic aspects
- Amenities and services
The College Student Satisfaction Questionnaire (CSSQ) classified six dimensions of university satisfaction:
- Policies and procedures
- Working conditions
- Quality of education
- Social life
- Recognition (Betz, Klingensmith, & Menne, 1970; Betz, Menne, Star, & Klingensmith, 1971).
DeVore and Handal (1981) proposed a five-factor model of university student satisfaction:
- Working Conditions (relating to University Environment)
- Compensation (cost vs. benefit)
- Quality of Education (e.g. relating to teacher capability)
- Social Life (involvement in social activity)
- Recognition (social belonging).
Clemes (2007) proposed a three-factor theory with multiple sub factors that further explain Student Satisfaction:
- Interaction Quality
- Outcome Quality
- Physical Environment
Lo (2010) identified three university student satisfaction factors:
- Instructor’s directions and support
- Own commitment to learning
- Course policies
A study by Wiers-Jenssen et al. (2002) found quality of teaching (academic and pedagogic) to be a crucial determinant of student satisfaction (Wiers-Jenssen et al.). The study also emphasised that the social climate, aesthetic aspects of the physical infrastructure and the quality of services from the administrative staff, quality of supervision and feedback from academic staff, composition, content and relevance of curriculum, quality of, and access to leisure activities should not be overlooked when considering factors of student satisfaction (Wiers-Jenssen et al., 2002).
A possible factor structure for the 37 university student satisfaction items in the is shown in Figure 1.
Causes, covariates, and consequencies
The debate about whether student satisfaction improves students’ academic performance or whether students’ performance improves student satisfaction is an interesting and important issue (Bean & Bradley, 1986). Research conducted by Siegel and Bowen (1971) on measures of satisfaction and performance indicated that satisfaction follows performance. In addition, they found that self-esteem moderated the relationship between performance and satisfaction.
Individual differences in university student satisfaction may be, in part, due to individual differences in general life satisfaction. Thus, to better understand student satisfaction, it could be helpful to remove the influence of broader life satisfaction. Hence a 5-item measure of general life satisfaction was introduced in TUSSMSQ v.6 (Diener's Satisfaction with Life Scale).
- University students
- University student academic performance
- University student coping
- University student motivation
- University student retention
- University student satisfaction references
- University student stress
- University student time management
- University of Canberra/Student satisfaction
- Lo, C. (2010). How student satisfaction factors affect perceived learning. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10, 47-54.
- Ross, J. (2012, Feb 15). Four out of five students satisfied. The Australian.