Only a third of higher education students report having a great university experience

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Only a third of students report having a great university experience, this according to the 2022 Connected Customer Report from Salesforce, highlighting insights into the global higher education trends from over 2,600 students and staff. The third edition of this report reveals a new sense of urgency in improving how students feel about their experience. Here is the executive summary of the report and the four key high-level findings:

1. Belonging is the foundation for success. Students make it clear that their institutional experience depends heavily on their first few weeks on campus. Students who have a great onboarding experience are 35 times more likely to have a great overall university experience. Providing holistic support and communicating how their degree will pay off as soon as students arrive can help students feel that they belong and improve their overall experience.

2. Students want holistic support from application to graduation. Students also report needing more wellbeing resources (36%) and in-person events and activities (54%) to connect with their peers. Students worldwide say that social events, more than classes, help them feel like a part of the university. Students who have a great university experience were more likely to report having the support they needed to succeed academically than students who had a poor experience (78% vs. 23%).

3. Students want to be prepared for the future of work. Nearly half (47%) of students reported selecting their institution for career prospects, but only 11% felt very prepared for work. Students who feel well-prepared are four times more likely to have a great university experience. In addition, nearly half of the students surveyed (49%) plan to continue learning through a higher education institution after graduating.

4. Flexibility and diversity matter. Students who have a great experience reported having easy online access to data and resources (86% great experience vs. 49% poor experience), services available via mobile (82% vs. 61%), positive digital experiences (81% vs. 36%), access to sharing platforms (80% vs. 57%), and personalized experiences tailored to their needs (60% vs. 11%). More than half (57%) of staff anticipate that flexible learning will increase in the near future. In addition to flexibility, students rank diversity and inclusion among universities’ top three values to uphold (26%). Furthermore, nearly one in five (17%) institutions said they plan to hire a chief diversity officer or its equivalent.

Also: How to perfectly answer the ‘tell me about yourself’ interview question

10 key takeaways 

1. Connection and belonging go hand in hand with great experiences. When the students were asked “Overall, how much do you feel you belong at your university?” only 12% responded with the feeling of totally belonging.

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Connections and belonging go hand in hand with great experiences 

2. Onboarding plays a key role in overall student experience. How can institutions improve the sense of belonging for students? Survey results indicate that students who have a great onboarding experience are 35 times more likely to have a great university experience, and 63% of students who have great onboarding feel more connected to their institution. In the U.S., 44% of students report having a great onboarding experience, with Australian students (41%) also apt to say the same.

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Onboarding plays a key role in overall student experience.

3. Location and career prospects draw students in. When deciding where to enroll, 56% of students selected location as an important factor, with future career prospects (47%), academic focus (36%), and social life (31%) close behind.

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Location and career prospects draw students in 

4.Students feeling disconnected crave more organized opportunities to socialize. The report notes, ultimately, building a foundation of belonging for students clearly betters their time in university. Students who felt they belonged were three times as likely to have a great experience. And a great experience can lead to a positive feedback loop. Of the students who are extremely likely to recommend their institution, 74% had a great experience, 99% were proud to be a student, and 73% had a great onboarding experience.

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Students want help managing schools with work and life.

5. Students want help managing school with work and life. A majority of universities are hitting this mark for now, as 69% of students are satisfied with the student services and support at their institution.

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Academic success is viewed as a core university value.

6. Higher education institutions meet the most important student needs, but over-index on other services. Students want more career connections from their university: 40% of students say they need their universities to offer job-specific workshops in order to build their career. They also wanted stronger links with the corporate world. Fifty-seven percent of students said that their university prepared them “very poorly,” a “little,” or only “moderately” for the world of work.

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Universities are meeting the mark but over-indexing on some experiences 

7. Demand for wellbeing resources rises. Whereas 34% of students wanted more help managing their work-life balance in 2021, 40% reported feeling the same in this year’s survey.

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Students want career guidance as part of lifelong learning curriculum 

8. Service and social factors drive great experiences. When asked what values students expected their university to uphold, nearly a third (32%) said academic excellence, but wellbeing (26%), diversity and inclusion (26%), and trust (24%) were all named frequently as well.

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Students expectations align with staff priorities.

9. Student connection and journey drive a great university experience. The survey found that nearly half (47%) of enrolling students said “future career prospects” were key in deciding what university they wanted to attend, making it the number one influencing factor.

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Alumni engagement goes hybrid

10.   Academic success is viewed as a core university value. Diversity, equity, and inclusion have gone beyond a slogan to being incorporated into daily institutional life. Nearly one in five (17%) institutions said that they were planning to hire a chief diversity officer, or its equivalent. Some universities are also using student representatives to collect feedback from their peers on how to improve university inclusion efforts.

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Flexible learning is seen as the future of higher education.

The State of Connected Student Report concludes by recommending that institutions can better serve these needs by prioritizing the onboarding experience, expanding support and career services, and providing resources students can access even after they graduate. To learn more about the report you can visit here.

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