Press release

16 Nov 2023 Dublin, IE

High Quality Teaching and Improving Career Prospects Top Priorities For Irish and UK University Students

DUBLIN, 16 NOVEMBER: University students across Ireland and the United Kingdom are happier with their choice of university than the global average according to a major new EY report, with high-quality teaching and improving career prospects student’s top priorities.

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EY Ireland

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EY Ireland, a leading global professional services organisation providing assurance, tax, audit, strategy and transactions and consulting services.

  • Seven in ten (70%) of Irish and UK students happy with choice of university, above global average of 67%
  • Quality of online learning ranked lowest for student satisfaction globally
  • Six in ten (59%) Irish and UK students managing work or caring commitments alongside studies

Dublin, 16 November 2023: University students across Ireland and the United Kingdom are happier with their choice of university than the global average according to a major new EY report, with high-quality teaching and improving career prospects student’s top priorities. However, the report also finds that students are seeking an overhaul of digital education practices and student experience to help their teaching staff better meet student expectations.

The report took data from more than 3,000 undergraduate and post-graduate students across eleven countries, including more than 500 across Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as staff focus groups and interviews with university leaders.

High-quality teaching was ranked as the top priority for students surveyed (85% of Irish and UK respondents), followed by improving careers prospects (82%). Globally, the quality of online learning ranked lowest on student satisfaction, with 20% saying that it did not meet expectations. Students also said they’d like to see investment in training teachers to deliver online learning more effectively (45%), developing better online learning materials (41%) and providing students more support with effective digital learning (40%).

Gary Comiskey, Partner and EY Public Sector Consulting Lead, says:

“Our research finds that students here are laser focused on learning and improving their career prospects, with high quality teaching a key priority. We’re also seeing that students here are on balance happier with their choice of university than the global average. While our research does not look at the precise reasons for this, the quality of teaching, better access to universities, and more deliberate choice of study by students here are potential reasons.

“Our research also confirms that in Ireland, similar to the other countries surveyed, almost six in ten (59%) students are juggling work or caring commitments alongside their study, so it is essential that universities design their courses and administrative elements of the university experience to allow the necessary flexibility.”

Commenting on the report, Dr Mark Glynn, EY’s Higher Education Lead says:

“Investment in digital teaching technology has been on the to-do list of university leaders for years and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that need dramatically. But emergency online teaching is different to well-planned and purposefully designed online learning. Our report finds that students and teachers want better online learning, with the necessary investment and training to provide students and teachers with the tools they need to operate effectively in this new world. Systems and practices need to be designed with the people they’ll serve in mind, rather than fitting in around existing structures. It must focus on students first and foremost, but to be successful they also need to work for faculty, researchers, administrative and support staff.”

New systems can help staff, but training and time required

The report also shows that more needs to be done to help teaching staff focus more on their core mission of teaching, supporting students or leading research. Focus group participants want further training in blended (online and in-person) teaching best practices, in terms of both developing curricula and content for effective digital or blended learning, as well as delivering teaching and learning support.

Glynn says, “Technology has the potential to make the jobs of lecturers, researchers and administrators much easier. For example, replacing mass in-person lectures with high-quality self-access learning content can free up faculty to focus more on smaller in-person teaching groups. Universities can also use analytics and Artificial Intelligence to find and support students that are struggling by designing personal intervention plans.”

Noting that more time is required to adjust to new systems and ways of working, the research identified the greater automation of routine tasks – such as processing student applications, grading assessments or submitting research grant applications – as a way to free up time across the whole university workforce. However, as a note of caution, our research showed that some staff feel that poorly implemented digital systems can feel like an addition to workloads, rather than helping staff fulfill their most important goal: delivering for students and society.

Students are open to change

Our research finds that students are very open to more administrative parts of university moving online with strong preferences for registrations (80%), administration (64%) and feedback (60%) being either fully or partly online.

Gary Comiskey noted: “We are already seeing Irish universities responding to this demand from students, with projects such as Ntutorr which aims to transform the student experience across the technological universities.”

The research report can be found here.