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UKES 2019 highlights the untapped potential of black students

31 Oct 2019 | Jonathan Neves Nearly 30,000 undergraduate students respond to the survey which covers engagement, skills development and time spent on activities.

Advance HE has published the UK Engagement Survey (UKES) 2019, now in its fifth consecutive year.

The results show that levels of student engagement remain higher now than in 2015 when the survey first began, but appear to have plateaued. Nevertheless, engagement in ‘research and inquiry’, and ‘critical thinking’ are both improving. More than 90% of students report that they feel challenged by their course.

Measuring engagement across five core categories, black students, 65%, report the highest levels of engagement and participation, as opposed to white students (60%) and Chinese students (56%). This high-level of engagement and application by black students does not appear to translate into better outcomes when compared with other ethnicities. 

UKES 2019 results also show a decline in study time and independent learning. The data records a decline since 2016 in the proportion of students spending 11 hours or more per week in taught classes and/or independent learning; the taught study declining by 4% this year to 46% and independent learning falling by 3% to 44%. Furthermore, new analysis in the report highlights how important independent learning can be to further development of a wide range of skills.

There is positive evidence that students recognise the importance of extra-curricular activities. In 2019, participation in societies and sports has increased to 53%, reversing earlier declines. Added to this, the numbers of students engaged in paid work, 53%, is no longer increasing. This is encouraging given the new analysis in the report pointing to how sports and societies can contribute to significant growth in skills development, whereas working for pay has much less impact on personal growth.

Also new this year is a question on whether students have considered leaving their course; 27% had done so. Among the insights, there is evidence that working and partnering with staff in areas such as ‘activities other than course work’, ‘career planning’ and ‘evaluation and assessment’ alleviates this risk.

Jonathan Neves, the report author and Advance HE’s Head of Business Intelligence and Surveys, said, “UKES provides really sound evidence in how students are engaged in their work. Institutions participating in UKES already have their own data and this will help them make informed decisions in enhancing the student experience.

“The untapped potential among black students given their high levels of engagement stands out in the findings and further research and exploration is needed in this area to support work to close the attainment gap.”

UK Engagement Survey 2019 (UKES)

Advance HE is currently signing up institutions for participation in UKES 2020. Please contact


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