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Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2021 shows effect of pandemic on student satisfaction

18 Nov 2021 | Advance HE The effect of the global pandemic felt by taught postgraduate students who feel more isolated, lacking in health and wellbeing support and missing interaction with peers.

Key findings

  • Overall course quality satisfaction was the lowest since PTES began, at 78%, although this is only one percent lower than 2020.
  • Around 76% of students were not receiving teaching as initially expected, being taught mainly or completely online rather than having in-person lessons.
  • Taught postgraduates who signed up to in-person courses but were being taught online often felt isolated, having less contact with staff and peers than expected, and also struggled with workload and accessing resources.
  • The flexibility of remote learning has been a benefit for some taught postgraduates who expected to have to juggle studying on-campus with caring and work responsibilities.
  • Health and wellbeing support did not meet the needs of 12% of students overall, 20% of students who declared a disability, and 29% of students who declared three or more disabilities.

Insight event: Findings from Advance HE's student experience surveys - Join us on 10 December as we share key findings on student mental health and wellbeing from the UK Engagement Survey (UKES), the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) and the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES). Find out more and book your place.

The Advance HE student surveys provide you with rich data and invaluable insights at individual course, department, school, faculty or institution levels. Find out more.

The Advance HE Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) 2021 has been published, with the effect of the global pandemic and the subsequent lack of in-person teaching perhaps unsurprisingly affecting student satisfaction levels. Nearly 70,000 students from 88 institutions responded to the survey, which shows the level of overall course satisfaction was the lowest since the survey began, at 78%. This represents a drop from pre-pandemic levels, when satisfaction levels were consistently at 82-83%, but the level has held up remarkably well given the challenges the sector has faced in the past 18 months.

The sudden change in teaching mode has had further knock-on effects with fewer students feeling like they had sufficient opportunity to discuss their studies with peers, as well as feeling isolated due to lack of contact with teaching staff. Students also struggled with workload and accessing resources online. However, the more flexible nature of learning has meant that some students, who would ordinarily have found it difficult to juggle studying with other commitments, found keeping up with their studies easier than they expected.

Similar to the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey, PTES shows that a significant number of postgraduate taught students felt that health and wellbeing support did not meet their needs, with 12% unhappy with the support they received, while this number increased to 20% for students who declared a disability and 29% for those who declared three or more disabilities. However, there were some positive examples of health and wellbeing support, with some institutions providing proactive outreach and timely support that was highly valued by students. 

Jonathan Neves, Head of Surveys and Insights at Advance HE said: “The pandemic was still a defining part of the student experience for this year’s taught postgraduates. We’ve found students’ voicing their isolation and frustration, because they’ve been unable to go on-campus or access resources. We know the majority of students taking masters level qualifications are just there for one year, so it has affected their whole time in higher education. However, most taught postgraduates were still upbeat about their studies. Many comments in the survey made clear how often staff and students worked to connect with each other, support each other, and create a good learning experience. That’s a real positive. It’s not seen to the same extent in every course in every institution, but where it’s happened it has made a real difference.”

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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