This research project and all related surveys were approved by:

  • The University of Adelaide Ethics Committee and Survey Reference Group
  • The Flinders University Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee
  • The University of South Australia’s Research and Innovation Services
  • The Department of Education and Children’s Service Policy Directorate, Government of South Australia


Preliminary Results from commencing and Continuing Student Surveys

The following data results represent the first stage of preliminary analysis on the 2010 commencing student survey, 2010 continuing student survey and the 2011 commencing student survey.

1. Students decide early based on interest

  • Many students decide to go to university before year 11 (56% of students)
  • The top two reasons students give for choosing their degree are: interest (78.2%) and job prospects (39.6%). School staff, on the other hand, think that the top two reasons are to improve job prospects (75%) and expectations of family and friends (63%).

2. Study is like a full time job

  • The majority of university staff expect students to study 6-10 hours per course per week, this is double the amount expected of students at school
  • 74% of new students have unrealistic expectations about the amount of study they will need to do at university

3. Marking of work takes longer than at school

  • At school it is common to receive assignments back within 1 week.
  • At university 82% of students expect to receive their marked work back within 3 weeks. But only 51.5% actually received their work back after three weeks.

4. Students expect more access to lecturers than they get

  • At school the main focus is on teaching students
  • Almost 50% of new students expect their uni teachers will spend 60-100% of their time teaching.
    At university the recommended amount of time for lecturers to spend teaching is 40% BUT over 80% of new students expect more than this. After a year of study, this figure drops to 60%.

5. Students study to improve job prospects

  • 1/3 of students surveyed indicated that they had transferred into another degree
  • 90% of university and school staff think that students transfer degrees because “it is not what they thought it would be” but only 18% actually transfer because of this reason
  • The main reported reason for changing degrees is because their new degree is “more suited to their job choice”
  • Less than 5% of university teachers, school teachers and students report that transferring is due to “not learning anything new”

6. Uni may be harder than students expect

  • Almost 90% of new students expect to perform as well or better at university than at high school but only half reported that they did. One in five students said they performed much better than they expected.

7. Studying should be the top priority

  • Over 90% of school staff and university staff agree that students combine study and work
  • Students expect to be able to do this (73.8%) but the reality is that only 51% are able to combine study and work in their first year of study

8. Students need to ask for feedback

  • The majority of students are expecting feedback on drafts of their work (95%) however, only 27% of continuing students actually received feedback on drafts of their work
  • Nearly 90% of new students expect to have easy and convenient access to lecturers and tutors outside of class time, but only half said that they did

9. Transition to university is a process

  • Less than 15% of university staff and less than 50% of school staff agree that secondary school adequately prepares students for university
  • Less than 50% of continuing students think that school prepared them for university

10. Students should expect a new challenge

  • 40% of school teachers/counsellors believe there is little difference between the standards of work required at school and university.
  • However, 80% of university staff and 72% of continuing students report that the standard of university work is different or extremely different to school work


3 thoughts on “Results

  1. Tom Worthington

    The results are much as I would expect: students have to do more work and get less help from lecturers than they were expecting. However, the researchers have phrased these results in terms of unrealistic expectations by students. But in other industries if you are not meeting your customer’s expectations, then you are doing something wrong: you don’t blame the customers. Perhaps universities should improve the service they provide so they meet the students expectations. As an example the research shows only 51.5% of students received their work back within three weeks of submitting it. That seems to me unacceptable performance by the university.

  2. Dr Ron Epping

    I agree with the findings of your survey. The first year is quite challenging for students and attrition or realignment of courses with career aspirations is to be expected as their professional perspective matures. First year tertiary academics and their instututions should regard first year attrition and course change is an expected phenomenon as a result of this, and is not a result of or failure of an academic’s pedagogy.

  3. Ann

    Thanks to you both for your comments. I think one of the points we are trying to make is that if we know what students expect then we can work to manage their expectations – we can explain why things happen the way they do – which hopefully avoids confusion and disappointment. By doing this we are supporting student transition to university. It is important that as we accept students in we need to do what we can to ensure that they are given the opportunity to make the most of their time at university. These may be my views only and not that of the team, but I think none of this research is about blaming anyone, it is all about developing understanding,

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