Uncover QILT to find out how unis rank courses

Universities use rankings to promote their courses but they do not release the results of surveys of people with really informed opinions – their own students. Funny that.

There was hullabaloo last week as universities promoted their results in the new QS subject rankings, which can be part of the pitch to prospective international students. But what universities don’t sell on is stats showing what their own students think about the way subjects are taught.

It’s not for want of data – the federally funded Quality Indicators for Teaching and Learning surveys international and local students for their opinions of their university over all, which is released but they receive much more information than that.

The ANU-owned Social Research Centre, which runs QILT for the Commonwealth, gets data on student enrolments per year from the Department of Education’s Tertiary Collection of Student Information, (what used to be called the Higher Education Information Management System). The SRC has records by course and, when institutions provide, by academic operating unit and campus.  

When QILT surveys are collated, providers are given all their outcomes, survey results, demographic data, student comments – which means they know what students think, not just about their institutions, but their courses.

For a university with stellar teachers and great student support in specific subjects, these results are gold – but it is marketing capital not spent. Perhaps this is out of modesty, unless of course it is because a faculty with less great results will oppose publication of their own outcomes and no university management would willingly release the results of some faculties and not others – lest questions be asked.

But the Commonwealth could compel them. In fact, in a limited way, it already does. The Department of Education funds ComparED, (“powered by QILT”) which allows users to compare courses from a maximum six institutions in 21 broad study areas (from agriculture and environment to vet science), with “satisfaction” scores aggregated over two years.

Turning this into a user-friendly platform would take money and methodology but it could be done. “QILT could provide a guide to the overall educational experience and maybe specific employment outcomes by broad discipline, the SRC’s director of QILT research and strategy Lisa Bolton says.

For prospective students, at home and away, who know what they want to study but not where, it would be way detailed and helpful than a subject ranking for prospective students, if not for DVC’s with dud disciplines on their patch. 



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