Over a quarter of humanities students said they had ‘never’ explored how to apply learning to employment – Students in humanities and arts feel much less prepared for the jobs market than their college peers, with more than a quarter saying they have “never” explored how to apply their learning in the workplace, a major new survey has found.

The study shows that the vast majority of third-level students find college to be a valuable experience, believing it has given them marketable skills and knowledge.

However, students in humanities and arts, as well as science and computing to a lesser degree, “report lower perceptions of preparation for the workplace and of their sense of employability”.

Some 23 per cent of students in humanities and arts said they believed college life had contributed “very little” to preparing for the workplace. In science, maths and computing, 15 per cent of students said likewise.

This compared to just 6 per cent of students in education and training, health and welfare, and services.

The Irish Survey of Student Engagement (studentsurvey.ie), which is due to be run annually after a pilot last year, received responses from more than 19,800 students across 30 higher education institutions.

It is aimed at providing data on the quality of teaching and learning at third-level, using a survey model developed in Australia and New Zealand.

While the authors say the survey needs to be repeated over several years to get a clear picture of student experiences, Ireland’s scores were “broadly comparable” to those in Australia and “reflect relatively well on the Irish higher education system”.

An exception was the area of “student-staff interactions”, where Ireland performed poorly against New Zealand. The survey’s project manager Sean O’Reilly said scores in that category “tend to be low in other jurisdictions but they are particularly low in Ireland, especially for first-year undergraduates”.

Student-staff ratio

The growing student-staff ratio and difficulties in adjusting from the teacher-led secondary model to the more independent third-level system were cited as possible reasons for the low Irish score.

Some 20 per cent of those surveyed here said they “never” received timely oral or written feedback from academic staff.

Asked to rank overall satisfaction with their educational experience, 3.8 per cent of respondents said “poor”, 16.4 per cent “fair”, 52.4 per cent “good”, and 27.5 per cent “excellent”. Satisfaction rates were higher for first-year students and postgraduates than for final-year undergraduates.

The survey, funded by the Higher Education Authority and run in partnership with the colleges and student unions, showed that students in institutes of technology (ITs) believed they were being better prepared for the workplace than those in universities.

IT students were also more likely to have done or be planning to do a work placement – 67 per cent, versus 61 per cent among university students.

The study noted that some such findings were not unexpected, with a greater emphasis on work experience in certain courses, but it expressed concern that 11 per cent of students were unaware of placement opportunities.

Some 27 per cent of students in humanities and arts said they had “never” explored how to apply learning in the workplace, and 22 per cent of science, maths and computing students said likewise. Just 3 per cent of students in education and training gave this reply.

The study refrains from giving individual scores for each institution. Mr O’Reilly said this could only be done with their consent.

However, it does highlight rates of participation in the survey, which varied significantly in universities: from 17 per cent of TCD students to just 9 per cent at UCC. Among ITs, Athlone had the highest participation rate at 41 per cent and DIT the lowest at 9 per cent.

This article was first published here …