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Largest annual survey shines a light on satisfaction rates among postgraduate researchers in the sector

22 Nov 2023 | Advance HE Advance HE report shows improvements in key elements of research culture though new evidence highlights the gap in the sense of belonging

Eight out of ten postgraduate researchers express overall satisfaction with their experience at their institution, says a report out today from Advance HE.

The Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) 2023 highlights a range of improvements in satisfaction in key measures of institutions’ research culture.

However, overall satisfaction rates with the postgraduate research experience fell marginally from 80% in 2022 to 79% this year – reflecting that levels of satisfaction are trending lower from 82 per cent in 2013 to 79 per cent in 2023.

PRES is the largest annual survey of its kind in the sector and this year it drew from more than 37,000 responses from 105 institutions – including four in Australia.

It also showed:

  • Researchers working mostly or completely online were less satisfied than those who worked mostly or completely in-person.
  • Researchers from different ethnicities expressed differing levels of satisfaction, with White students the most satisfied in 2023 in comparison to 2019 when Asian students were the most satisfied.
  • The largest gaps in satisfaction between ethnicities focused around the opportunities provided for development activity with Black students a lot less likely to have been offered (or taken up) teaching experience and other development opportunities.
  •  Researchers with a disability continued to be less satisfied with their overall experience.
  • Among those considering leaving, cost of living is an increasingly important factor in how they view their challenges.

A new question this year explores ‘Satisfaction with elements of Community’. This reveals relatively low scores and is one of the aspects that PGRs would most like to see changed or improved. The report shows 62% ‘feel a sense of belonging at my institution’ and only 57% ‘feel part of a community of PGRs’. Female PGRs in particular were less likely to feel they were part of a community of PGRs.

Jonathan Neves, Head of Business Intelligence and Surveys at Advance HE, said, “The primary purpose of PRES is to offer insights that help drive enhancement, such as the now question on ‘community’ leading to evidence-informed change. I am delighted that so many UK institutions continue to take part so that they have data to help enhance their PGR offer. I am also very pleased to welcome institutions in Australia who have participated this year for the first time. They will now be in a position to benchmark their performance.

“It is positive to see nearly four out of five PGRs satisfied with their experience and there is encouraging feedback about research. But we should note that this is not for all groups. Institutions will also wish to explore why some – females and minority groups, in particular – are experiencing lower levels of satisfaction and at the same time to look at ways to address a gradual fall in satisfaction over time.”

Read the full report and the Australia summary report here

Advance HE Insight events - Postgraduate Student Voice

Join us for a free webinar, at 10.00, on 7 December 2023, where we will be discussing the findings of the recently released sector reports for the 2023 Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research Experience Surveys (PRES and PTES).

Book your place

Understand and enhance the student experience with our custom benchmark and insight reports on your PRES results

The Advance HE Insights Team provide institutions taking part in our student surveys with a standard institutional benchmarking report for each survey. We also offer the opportunity to purchase additional reports into your results, which offer invaluable insights and deeper analysis that will enable your institution to make more targeted interventions and enhancements to improve the student experience.

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