The 2020 Student Experience Survey (SES) - QILT in Australia found that Australian universities saw a sharp decline in student satisfaction rates, especially among international students.
The survey served as an opportunity to explore and measure the performance of the higher education sector amid the COVID-19 and how they responded to the pandemic by analysing the perspective of students who experienced the same.
2020 was also the first year to have a new international student module introduced that measured broader aspects of the international student experience including accommodation, living, and reasons to study in Australia.
The survey found that the educational experience rating in Australia among undergraduate students fell from 78% in 2019 to 69% in 2020.
While ratings for Learner Engagement fell from 60% in 2019 to 44% in 2020, there was a significant drop in Learning Resources ratings, from 84% in 2019 to 76% in 2020. There were, however, comparatively smaller declines in positive ratings for Skills Development, Teaching Quality and Student Support.
International students have, on the other hand, registered greater declines in student ratings than domestic students. They have reported a 12% drop in overall education experience in 2020, compared to 2019 and similarly Learning Resources rating declined by 11%.
However, in terms of Learner Engagement, international students have reported a 10% decline unlike a 16% decline as reported by domestic students.
QILT suggested that one of the reasons for the same could be attributed to the fact that some 76-77% of primary student visa holders in Australia were in the country between August and September 2020.
Around 18% of the international students also indicated that they were considering leaving Australia and giving up their study due to financial difficulties (38%, increased by 18% from 2019) and fee difficulties (increased by 14-35% from 2019).
The survey also asked international students to rate how their living arrangements, financial circumstances or paid work commitments impacted their study. There was an increase from 28% in 2019 to 47% in 2020 of students who said they were negatively impacted by their financial circumstances. Those impacted by living arrangements increased from 23% to 34% and those by paid work commitments increased by 9% to 30%.
The report suggested that this was because of the lockdowns due to the pandemic.
Universities such as the University of Wollongong (in New South Wales) and Queensland University of Technology saw larger than overage drops in student ratings for overall education experience amid COVID-19 during the second-wave.