October 14, 2019 • HOP, Bas Helleman
One step closer to a mandatory National Student Survey
Research universities and universities of applied sciences will have to participate in the National Student Survey, whether they want to or not. Minister Van Engelshoven has sent a bill along those lines for approval to the Lower House.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of students receive an invitation to participate in the National Student Survey. It’s an opportunity to share their opinion about their degree programme: what do they think of their lecturers, how challenging do they find their education, how satisfied are they with the ICT?
The survey is meant to provide feedback to the degree programmes, but also to inform (future) students about the strengths and weaknesses of each degree programme. The results are used by the public website Studiekeuze123.nl and in private publications, such as the Study Guide and Elseviers Best Studies.
This year there were not only major issues in conducting the survey, but the universities of applied sciences also had a lot of criticism on the actual survey. With her bill, the minister wants to break the impasse that emerged as universities of applied sciences are threatening to no longer participate in the National Student Survey.
Partially because of the awkward way the new privacy legislation was handled, there were quite a few mishaps with last year’s survey. The problems escalated to the point that data had to be ‘fixed’ to make it reliable. The research universities assisted in this, but the universities of applied sciences were unwilling to help. As a result of their refusal there are no up-to-date student evaluations of their university of applied sciences degree programmes.
A second problem was that the discussions about reviewing the survey questions have failed. The survey is conducted by a foundation with representatives from both student organisations and educational institutions, but the minister has reported that they are unable to come to an agreement.
“This has eroded support for the National Student Survey and puts pressure on the survival of the national survey,” writes Van Engelshoven in the justification for her bill. She had already announced her plan earlier.
The minister will now nominate a ‘legal entity’ to conduct the survey, this could be a foundation or an institution. This entity will gather and share information about study choices, but will also research student satisfaction and student engagement, according to the minister.
The latter category is new in the National Student Survey. Student engagement is the extent in which students are involved in their studies: how much time do they invest in their degree programme, are they motivated, are they committed?
The minister wants to include the right ‘checks and balances’. She believes that educational institutions and stakeholders should have a say in the National Student Survey, “and at the same time we must ensure the objectivity of the information about study choice”.
The costs of the survey are estimated at about 200,000 euros a year, while the costs for the entire ‘legal entity’ (this includes promoting and sharing the results, conducting research etc.) would be around 2.5 million euros a year.