The student focus groups consisted of small group meetings led either by a student member of the European Students Union or by a staff member (where a student was not available). Participants were invited to respond to a number of questions relating to their learning experience, their understanding of the concept of quality in higher education and their influence (voice) in the quality process. The set of questions used with students was designed to encourage positive comments rather than complaints and a full list of questions is available on the SPEAQ website, some examples of which are given below:
- What is the most rewarding learning experience you have had on your programme/course and why?
- What makes your experience as a student a valuable one?
- Do you have a voice within your university? Are you listened to? If so, how is your opinion heard/acted upon? Where is your voice heard? By whom?
- What can you contribute to enhancing the learning experience?
- Who are the quality managers in your institution?
Each partner submitted a summary of the main outcomes of their student focus group to the European Students Union which has produced a draft summary report of the key findings from each of the focus groups.
In all focus groups, communication is identified as an important element of a good institution. However, according to the participants in the discussions, communication is the most common problem. Students require better communication teacher-to-teacher, teacher-to-student, student-to-student, student-to-teacher, student-to-administration through regular meetings, round table discussions etc. In addition to communication, students are looking for an opportunity to apply their learning.
In terms of their understanding of the quality processes within their institutions it was found that in general students do not know who the quality managers in their institutions are and there is considerable variation in the effectiveness of class representatives and students.
Finally, when asked about quality enhancement students appear to have ideas about how the learning process could be enhanced, but are not so creative when it comes to their personal involvement.