About the “Quarter to Quality Education” survey
The “Quarter to Quality Education” student survey aims to explore students’ satisfaction with their studies and student life at Slovak higher education institutions systemically and comparably. The Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education (SAAHE) is carrying out the survey as an independent public body assessing the quality of education and effectiveness of its provision by higher education institutions. All students in bachelor’s, master’s, and joint studies at higher education institutions in Slovakia can participate in the survey.
The idea of carrying out the student survey across Slovakia has been out there for a longer time. Finally, it became a reality following the changes in the quality assurance system of higher education in Slovakia. One of the key pillars of a modern quality assurance system in education is the direct involvement of relevant stakeholders, especially students. The work of SAAHE involves regular monitoring of higher education and drafting specific remedies against the identified failures to be implemented by relevant higher education institutions. This survey aims to provide regular and detailed feedback of higher education students on their studies and make it available to higher education institutions, other relevant authorities and the public.
Designing the survey content
Drafting the survey content took several months (June 2020 – April 2021), and dozens of people participated in this process. The survey is based on the SAAHE principles applied for assessing the quality of higher education institutions. In the realm of Slovak higher education, the analyses, surveys and findings of the Learning Makes Sense Project, and working versions of the student survey prepared by the Student Council for Higher Education (SCHE) provided further inspiration for the survey. International sources included national student surveys carried out in Ireland (Student Survey), the Netherlands (Nationale Studente Enquete) and the United Kingdom (National Student Survey). The pandemic section draws from the survey on the COVID-19 pandemic impacts on students (SCHE and SAAHE). Specific parts of the survey were inspired by the Canadian sources (International Student Survey – for international students), EUROSTUDENT and Erasmus+ reports (for students participating in student mobilities) and Gallup-Purdue Index (for graduates). Questions for international students in Slovakia took account of a large number of Ukrainian students. They were based on questions and findings of the CEDOS think-tank exploring how Ukrainian students perceived their arrival in Slovakia, their studies and future plans.
A first complex draft of the survey was ready in early January 2021. It was then consulted and commented on by various partners. At first, the draft was commented on by SAAHE staff. In February, further consultations took place mainly with experts from the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic, agencies administering student mobilities (SAIA, SAAIC), the Support centre for students with special needs at the Comenius University and Mr Marián Jenčík from the civic association JEN&JEN – Active life with disabilities. These experts commented on the survey content.
Furthermore, Martin Kanovský, Oľga Gyarfášová and Michal Hajdúk assessed the survey from a methodological perspective. During the whole process, several hundred comments were raised and incorporated. Afterwards, the survey was finalised and set ready for pilot testing. Apart from consulting, the analytical team at SAAHE held 3 online consultations with the Dutch agency Nationale Studenten Enquête (Studiekeuze123), which is administering the national survey in the Netherlands. These sessions helped us to set up the methodology, communication and logistics of the survey.
Survey pilot testing
Pilot testing of the survey took place in March 2021, and a student sample was selected to test the survey. The student sample reflected the defined sampling quota to truly represent the student population. Pilot testing verified whether students understood the survey questions correctly and whether respective sections and questions were internally consistent. It also provided general feedback on the survey draft.
In total, 426 respondents participated in the survey and 278 completed it. After data cleansing, a final pilot sample of 272 respondents was analysed. This sample reflected a proportionate share of various school types (public, state, private), fields of studies by categories (exact and natural sciences, medical and paramedical sciences, social sciences and humanities, technical and technological sciences, teaching and helping professions, artistic fields of study), and levels of study (first and second level, joint studies). The collected data were statistically analysed to verify the internal consistency of particular concepts and topics covered by the survey. Apart from pilot testing, 13 detailed structured interviews were held with respondents selected to form a representative sample of all identified groups of students. These interviews aimed to verify the comprehension of questions and expressions used in the survey and the level of satisfaction with the applied technical solution and the visual aspects of the survey. The survey was then finalised based on both pilot testing and interviews.
Classification based on the Methodology for assessment of standards by SAAHE, article 23, point 9. The only change made was moving the fields of study “Speech therapy and therapeutic pedagogy” along with “Teaching and pedagogic science” to the group “Teaching and helping professions”. The reason was that the group “Social sciences and humanities” exceeded other groups when comparing the number of their students. So, we moved certain fields of study where we expected a different approach to students.
The COVID-19 pandemic
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a special section devoted to its handling and impact on education was included in this year’s survey. During the past year and a half, the education process was almost entirely running at a distance. Therefore, multiple questions related to school premises or personal contact of students and their participation in school life were excluded. Many students had neither an opportunity to be in school in person nor meet their classmates face-to-face, which might have significantly affected their responses. These exceptional circumstances will be taken into account when processing responses, and respective findings will be interpreted in the context of the pandemic.
The survey is administered as an online questionnaire. Primarily, we contact respondents by sending an email to their email address stored in the Central Registry of Students (CRS). Respondents enter the survey upon authentication using a unique link in the invitation or filling in their school email address. The survey is available in 4 languages: Slovak, Hungarian, Ukrainian, and English. Moreover, a version adjusted for blind and visually impaired students is ready.
The process map – preparing and implementing the survey
Creating the database and population overview
- Central Registry of Students
- Cooperation with higher education institutions
- Email invitation
- Public campaign (social networks, media, higher education institutions, famous people)
- Individual link in an email
- General link in the campaign
Filling in the survey
- Core block and thematic block
- Specific questions for certain groups of students
Personal data protection
- Deleting personal data
- Anonymisation of responses
- Analysis and statistics
Creating the database and population overview
The survey is intended for all students at higher education institutions in Slovakia (except doctoral students). The total population of respondents is 128,000 students on the first (bachelor’s) or second (master’s) level of higher education or enrolled in joint studies (.). When constructing the target population, we drew from the following sources: statistics by the Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information (CSTI), subsidy allocation by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic (MoESRS) and from the data in the Central Registry of Students (CRS). The overview also consists of quota sampling characteristics ensuring that the survey results represent the student population in selected traits. The quota sampling characteristics are the following: age, gender, higher education institution, faculty (if applicable), the field of study and study programme, the form, level and year of study, citizenship (international students), the language of instruction at the study programme and students with special needs.
A database consisting of student email addresses was prepared based on the CRS registry data to approach respondents. It included an email address and other student-related data (higher education institution, faculty, field of study, form of study, level of study, year of study, study programme). SAAHE deals with this data pursuant to § 18 (4) of Act No. 269/2019 Coll. and the Agreement on providing and processing personal data from the Central Registry of Students No. 0177/2021 as of 19.03.2021, which lay down rules concerning the personal data processing. More information related to personal data processing is available here
Contacting respondents and options to participate
The survey is set up to contact every student as directly as possible. Invitation to participate in the survey is sent to every student with an email address in the CRS, directly addressing of the target population. In the invitation email, every student receives a unique link to enter the survey. Although precautions are applied, the invitation email may end up in the spam folder. Hence, our communication campaign recommends that students check their spam folders. Every contacted respondent has an option not to participate in the survey and/or unsubscribe from the SAAHE email database related to it. In the latter case, the student will not be reached with an invitation to participate in the survey again.
Besides email invitations, a communication campaign has been launched that communicates the option to participate in the survey via the survey web page. This campaign is directed mainly towards students not contacted by email. To enter the survey via the web page, one has to authenticate through his/her school email address. The respondent’s identity will be then verified. If we find out during the data cleansing phase that a student submitted the survey repeatedly (via a unique link in the email or via the survey web page), the repeated submissions will be removed from the dataset. Thus, we shall avoid duplicate submission of surveys by a single respondent via different channels.
The survey interface can adapt to different devices and browsers. It is possible to participate in the survey using any device connected to the internet (e.g., desktops, notebooks, tablets, or smartphones).
Respondents that do not participate in the survey or do not complete it shall receive at least one and a maximum of three email reminders to participate or to complete the survey. Every respondent can return to the survey and continue filling it in even after a previous interruption. In the first phase of data collection (14 days from the date of campaign launch), the invitations, reminders and campaign are targeted at all students. In the second phase of data collection, reaching out will be more targeted on certain groups of students to fulfil the requested sampling quota characteristics.
The email invitation and reminders (notifications) and the communication campaign were prepared with caution not to affect respondents’ answers. Participation of various external parties and higher education institutions in promoting the project was preceded by coordinated communication to prevent misleading, vague or contradictory information regarding the survey.
Respondents are contacted directly by emails as well as through a broader communication campaign. The main communication channels are the project web page, Facebook and Instagram. Moreover, SAAHE communicates the survey via various print, digital and electronic media. Public figures and higher education institutions can participate in the campaign too. The campaign uses a unified neutral tone in communication, visuals, and slogans to minimise the impact on respondents’ survey responses. In other words, this campaign aims to encourage as many students as possible to fill in the survey without influencing their responses.
The survey covers various topics relevant to students related to their studies and student life in general. Based on the student’s demographics and studies, only pertinent sections are displayed to him/her. We apply a random order of options, questions and statements in multiple sections to minimise the influence of the displayed order of options on responses. The survey consists of three main blocks and a section on demography.
- Core block: organisation of studies, course characteristics, preparedness and approach of teachers, student assessment (marks), development of skills by students, support and services provided for students, student life and student voice.
- Thematic blocks: the pandemic (how did the school cope with it) and academic ethics (how frequent fraudulent practices are and how the school tackles them).
- Blocks for specific groups of students: freshmen students (transition to higher education and start of studies), graduates (overall assessment of studies, future plans), international students (arrival in Slovakia, integration and plans to stay in the country), students with special needs (conditions for studies), experience with mobilities abroad (motivation, benefits and challenges).
Filling in the survey takes about 15 minutes, hence the project name – “Quarter to Quality Education”. However, it can take a slightly shorter/longer time for certain groups of respondents due to survey blocks displayed for specific groups of students (e.g. an international student completing a part-time study has to fill in more blocks). . During this period, all students will be contacted. A more targeted campaign will be applied in later stages to achieve the requested sampling quota characteristics.
The survey contains multiple types of questions: selecting from multiple options, entering short text/numeric data, open response (a maximum of 1,000 characters), survey scale on dis/agreement (strongly disagree – somewhat disagree – somewhat agree – strongly agree), the share of teachers (almost no teachers – a minority of teachers – a majority of teachers – almost all teachers) and share of courses (almost no courses – a minority of courses – a majority of courses – almost all courses), selection of a limited number of options (a maximum of 1 – 4), selection of all relevant options. In some instances, the option “Not applicable” is included because the question/statement can be irrelevant for some students (e.g., satisfaction with the office for international affairs). This option is not an alternative to express a neutral opinion. The neutral position is not included in available options at all.
When filling in the survey, respondents can only move forward to the next question – they cannot return to change their previous answers. Participation of students in the survey is voluntary, and they can stop or terminate it at any time. Upon sending a request to email@example.com, we can make the questionnaire available after the data collection.
Personal data protection
For the purposes of this survey, we process the following personal data from the CRS registry: email address, gender and age. Further information linked with students’ survey responses is their study programme, higher education institution, form, level and year of study. For the purposes of personal data protection, the contact email address will be removed from individual survey responses before data processing. Only designated staff at SAAHE and the survey supplier can handle such data. They are bound by the non-disclosure agreement.
We will present the survey results publicly only in aggregated form. Personal data will serve to measure compliance with the sampling quota characteristics and for statistical analysis. Additional data will enable us to produce aggregated overviews broken down by institutions, fields of study and other specific variables. It will not be possible to identify an individual respondent from the disclosed data.
More information about GDPR is available at prieskum.saavs.sk/gdpr/.
All collected data will be anonymised and cleansed. We will check for possible duplicate entries, inconsistent or random answers, and other suspicious conduct during this process. In case of doubts about the authenticity of responses or other deficiencies, suspicious responses will be removed from the final dataset according to the standard procedures.
After the cleansing process, an anonymised and cleansed dataset will be made available for analysts and statisticians. Only designated staff at SAAHE and the survey supplier will be involved in the anonymisation process and data cleansing. They are bound by the non-disclosure agreement.
Processing responses and data anonymisation
Once the data collection is finished, the respondents’ personal data will be removed from the dataset so that it is not possible to find out respondents’ identities (personal data of respondents will be stored separately from their responses). All responses will be pooled in a secured dataset. This dataset will serve for analytical and statistical purposes performed by the analytical team at SAAHE together with the survey supplier.
Statistical processing and data analysis
Next, responses will be analysed and processed to prepare and present the main survey findings. When working with data, appropriate statistical and analytical methods will be applied (e.g., analysis of correlations, factors and clusters). Individual responses will be aggregated and compared across groups of respondents.
The survey results will be presented in an anonymised and aggregated form. The survey outcomes, both public and internal, will be customised to prevent identifying any individual respondent based on his/her responses.
SAAHE will present the survey findings in public events and on the survey web page as well as use other appropriate forms. Aggregated data for various levels will be made available to the public. Publicised data will thus provide complex information on how students assess various aspects of their studies and student life. Such information should serve current students to get an overview of their studies and prospective students to find their own place of study.
SAAHE will use the survey results as support information review panels of the Executive Board when assessing HEI’s applications for accreditation of their internal system of quality or their study programme and for monitoring education between accreditation periods. The survey results will serve as an indicator of the strengths and weaknesses of a higher education institution or a study programme. Based on the survey findings, the analytical team at SAAHE will prepare thematic analyses covering various crucial issues and themes.
More detailed summaries of survey results for individual institutions will be made available to higher education institutions to get feedback on their activities and information about student satisfaction in a nationwide context. Anonymised data will be made available to the expert public in a public repository for purposes of research on higher education in Slovakia. In all cases of publicising data, we will maintain the principle that responses cannot be linked to respondents.
Finally, student survey results will form a basis for public and institutional policy-making regarding higher education in Slovakia.
Who participates in the implementation of this survey?
The Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education prepared the survey, and it also performs its management, coordination and evaluation. We will make the survey findings publicly available.
The Go4insight company is the IT provider of the survey, contributes to its analysis and prepares tools for the presentation of data.
The Seesame company is in charge of preparing and implementing the communication campaign.