Polling the graduates

Exit polls say majority of graduates place little priority on equity and diversity issues, but generally satisfied

Queen’s 2009 exit poll results are in. The exit poll, which is in its 16th year, aims to gauge undergraduates’ experience during their time at Queen’s.

The University asks graduating students to complete an e-mail survey around March and then compiles the results.

This year, over 80 per cent of students either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “overall my experience as a student at Queen’s was excellent.”

University Registrar Jo-Anne Brady said exit poll results can be used for goal tracking and strategic planning.

“The University and the deans look at the results seriously and see where there are gaps or challenges,” she said.

Brady said the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC) was built in part because of high levels of student dissatisfaction with athletics facilities on the exit poll.

“The results should be viewed over time; large annual swings in the results from certain classes may be anomalous,” the report said.

The report says that in 2008, 87 per cent of concurrent education students were planning on seeking employment after graduation. In 2009, 39 per cent were planning on seeking employment.

“There was a fair bit of press about teaching positions in the news last year, it might that have had an impact on the graduating class,” Brady said. “We publish it looking at seven years in a row so you look and see students have been increasingly satisfied or dissatisfied.”

Brady said the University shouldn’t be happy with static results but should always be looking for improvement.

“The satisfaction with students for international student services has increased fairly substantially so that’s the kind of thing that I would be looking at as a positive trend,” she said.

Over the last five years 41 per cent of students have indicated they are satisfied with services for international students.

“The number of students who responded to the question [about international student services] was more than the number of international students, so that shows that more than international students are taking advantage of those services,” Brady said, adding that although students are encouraged to respond ‘not applicable’ to questions about aspects of the university they are unfamiliar with, there’s no way to know who responds to what questions.

The exit poll asks questions about three main aspects of student experience: the quality of the learning environment, the contribution of Queen’s education to learning and development and student satisfaction with services and facilities.

When completing the survey, students are asked to rate their satisfaction with each item and whether they think it’s important.

“If you’re not satisfied you might relate it as being not important,” Brady said. “Those may be things the University doesn’t want to invest in.”

In terms of Queen’s contribution to the learning environment, awareness of social and political issues and appreciation of other races, cultures and religions are only two items that were considered unsatisfactory and unimportant on the 2009 exit poll.

Brady said she would like to increase the participation rate of the survey.

“We’ve been running at close to 50 per cent and last year it dropped to 37 per cent,” she said, adding that in the past, students were entered into a draw for two $250 prizes upon completion of the survey but that she would like to decrease the value and increase the number of prizes to attract more respondents.

Brady said the survey is sent out by e-mail to make it as easy as possible. She said she thinks the exit poll provides students an easy way to share their opinion.

“I use the analogy of someone who just stops you in the street and says, ‘You just graduated from Queen’s, what was it like?’”

Brady said she’s unsure if departments will use the information in the exit poll to help inform their responses to Principal Woolf’s vision document on Apr. 15 but that the results have been used to shape academic plans within individual departments and faculties.

“I don’t know what departments are going to do,” she said. “Certainly there are reflections about the learning environment.”

Justin Briginshaw, ArtSci ’09 and BEd ’10, said he doesn’t think the exit poll is very useful. “I thought it was super long so it was annoying,” he said. “Most of my friends didn’t bother to fill it out.” Briginshaw said he doesn’t know what the information could be used for because it was too specific.

“There were five or six questions about one thing like the JDUC— really nitpicky things,” he said.

Briginshaw said the survey he took was multiple choice with an optional 1,000 word box at the end. He said he thinks the survey can be improved with more short answer questions to allow students to better express their opinions.

“Instead of using scales and ranks, maybe have more text boxes,” he said.


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