Despite pandemic’s impact on campus experience employers still prefer UOW graduates, surveys reveal
UOW boasts state-leading satisfaction by graduate employers and Creative Arts, Law, Engineering and Education students
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic impacting on students’ satisfaction with the University of Wollongong (UOW) campus experience in 2020, student satisfaction remains in key disciplines and employers of UOW graduates are more satisfied than employers of graduates from virtually every other public university in Australia.
The results come from two landmark annual surveys released overnight (Thursday, 18 March) by the Australian Government-funded Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT): the Employer Satisfaction Survey (ESS) and Student Experience Survey (SES).
The results from both 2020 surveys reflect the challenges facing the higher education sector in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of focusing on meeting student needs and preparing them for the workforce.
EMPLOYER SATISFACTION SURVEY – UOW TOPS PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES
The Employer Satisfaction Survey provides insights into the quality of education provided at Australian institutions by asking supervisors to provide feedback about the generic skills, technical skills and work readiness of graduates employed in their workplace.
Over 3,400 supervisors of Australian resident and international graduates from Australian universities and non-university higher education institutions participated in 2020, making it the largest Australian survey of employers of higher education graduates.
UOW earned a graduate employer satisfaction rate of 90 per cent, equal with the Australian Cathoic University, placing UOW ahead of all other NSW public universities and equal first among public universities nationally.
This ranking maintains and improves on the 2019 ESS results, which placed UOW first in NSW but second nationally.
STUDENT EXPERIENCE SURVEY – POSITIVE RESULTS DESPITE ISOLATION FROM CAMPUS
The QILT Student Experience Survey measures current students' experience at universities in Australia, taking note of their satisfaction across a range of indicators, including Overall Satisfaction, Skills Development, Learner Engagement, Teaching Quality, Student Support, and Learning Resources.
Students at UOW were surveyed in July and August of 2020, amid the depths of students’ isolation from campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
UOW’s performance, in all six categories, was above the national average. The University was recognised as equal third in NSW for Teaching Quality, second for Skills Development, third for Learner Engagement, and third for Student Support.
In the disciplines of Creative Arts and Law, UOW was placed third in Australia and second in NSW. In Engineering, Teacher Education, and Health Services and Support, the University is second in NSW.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES AND LESSONS LEARNED
Professor Theo Farrell, UOW’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), said the University has always been recognised and valued for its beautiful campuses and quality, personalised face-to-face learning experience.
“The shift to remote delivery required by the pandemic presented a significant challenge for engaging with students in a face-to-face capacity. It has made it difficult to create a sense of belonging and connection to the University, including students who are new to UOW and to higher education in general,” Professor Farrell said.
“Students have felt less connected to the campus and to each other, and that has been incredibly difficult for many as we navigated the impact of the pandemic on our daily lives.”
In the 2020 results, UOW recorded an increase in students who were satisfied with the support they have received that was relevant to their personal circumstances.
Professor Farrell said the indicator of Student Support remains relatively steady, which highlights how UOW has continued to provide personalised services in support of students throughout the unprecedented events of the past year.
“It is understandable that students over time became fatigued with online remote learning, but it is great to know that UOW’s unwavering emphasis on ensuring that students felt supported and understood, even as they grappled with the uncertainty of the events of 2020, has been acknowledged.
“The Student Experience Survey presents valuable lessons for how UOW can improve its learning experiences, both in improving the quality of our use of digital learning and ensuring the safe return of on-campus learning,” Professor Farrell said.
UOW GRADUATES HIGHLY- SOUGHT THAN EVER
“Despite the difficulties of 2020, we are very pleased to see that UOW’s long-standing focus on preparing our graduates well for the workplace is continuing to yield results with UOW now leading NSW and equal first nationally for graduate employer satisfaction.
“With our award-winning work integrated learning program, UOWx, our close collaboration with industry and our encouragement of entrepreneurialism and innovation among our students, it is little wonder that in during these uncertain economic times UOW graduates are more highly sought after by employers than ever,” Professor Farrell said.
RESTORING CAMPUS LIFE
UOW is focused on restoring its vibrant campus life in 2021, with nearly half of all classes already returning to campus and almost all onshore students being offered the chance to learn on campus.
This is the central pillar in an insititution-wide effort to improve its student learning experience, both in-person and online.
In the past year, UOW has invested significantly into the pivot to online remote delivery. Plans are underway for an ambitious 18-month program of work to digitally uplift over 1,000 subjects. The University will also be returning even more classes and students to its campuses in 2021.
In 2020, the University received a prestigious Higher Education Award from the Australian Financial Review for its Preparing to Teach Online Program.
QILT comprises a comprehensive suite of surveys that cover the breadth of the higher education experience, from commencement to employment.