The construction of a model of qualitative evaluation to support the development of the policy and practice of measuring student satisfaction in a higher education institution

Townley, Peter (2005). The construction of a model of qualitative evaluation to support the development of the policy and practice of measuring student satisfaction in a higher education institution. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000c015

Abstract

The dissertation is an analysis of the methods used for the measurement of student satisfaction in Higher Education (HE) in the United Kingdom and draws on evidence from Europe, Australia and the USA.

The prevalent measurement system is quantitative via the application of surveys. This predominance has been influenced by developments as indicated in marketing literature and adopted widely by manufacturing and service businesses. It is considered appropriate, according to this model, to consider students as customers of the service - HE.

There is increasing formalisation of the survey system because of its adoption as part of audit procedures set up by the QAA. This formalisation is raising the status of student satisfaction on the quality agenda of HE managers.

The research study was designed to establish whether it is practicable to develop a qualitative based evaluation model. The model was developed using a grounded theory methodology.

The application of grounded theory is problematic because of its complexity and the variety of interpretations as indicated by academic literature. The issues concerned in adapting the methodology are considered as part of the methodological literature review. The process of adaptation was both iterative and evolutionary in nature.

Field research involving the application of the model was undertaken in two separate HE institutions - Colleges A and B. The research in College A was completed over a two-year period. Grounded theory techniques were trialled but were judged incomplete. The research in College B was undertaken in a much shorter time of two months and involved the application of a fully developed grounded theory technique. In both colleges, reports were produced for the consideration of senior managers in each college.

The grounded theory analysis revealed two separate but related core categories. In College A, the core was Communication Problems and in College B, Issues relating to Empathy with Students. The cores were derived from an analysis that made use of a constant comparative method of examining themes and categories to produce an integrative category that explained the main determinant(s) of student satisfaction.

The methodology, through adaptation provides information that allows HE managers to understand how students experience service quality. In this respect, it has the potential to explain the statistics generated by satisfaction surveys.

The study culminated in the production of The Student Satisfaction Evaluation Tool (SSET). This tool was developed from an adaptation of grounded theory techniques.

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