Enhancing student engagement in student experience surveys: A mixed methods study

Martin Webber*, Siobhan Lynch, Jennifer Oluku

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


BackgroundMeasuring the student experience is becoming increasingly important in higher education in the UK. Student experience surveys are used as indicators of quality and form the basis of rankings of higher education institutions. They are also used by them as tools to assist their quality enhancement initiatives. However, these surveys frequently suffer from low response rates, which can reduce the reliability and usefulness of their data. The UK Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) is a relatively new survey and suffers from a low response rate. As this survey is new, little is known about why students do not respond to it.PurposeThis study aimed to explore the reasons why postgraduate students do not respond to the PTES.SampleThree hundred and fifty-five postgraduate taught students from four health faculties in one UK higher education institution completed an online survey. Of these, seven participated in one of two focus groups.Design and methodsThe online survey was completed both by students who completed the PTES in 2011 and those who did not. This provided us with cross-sectional data to compare both groups' knowledge of PTES and their reasons for completing or not completing it. We used multivariate regression analysis to explore which variables were associated with response to PTES. We led two focus groups to explore the themes that emerged from the survey in more depth. This data was analysed by two researchers using thematic analysis.ResultsThe cross-sectional data found that students who were not clear about the purpose of PTES were less likely to respond, independent of other potential predictor variables. Focus group data indicated that if postgraduate students felt a stronger connection to the university community they may be more likely to respond to PTES.ConclusionsThis study suggests that higher education institutions may wish to review their strategies for advertising student experience surveys to focus more on their purpose rather than their impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-86
Number of pages16
JournalEducational Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • postgraduate taught students
  • quality enhancement
  • student surveys
  • student voice
  • students' perceptions


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