It’s the “holy grail” of SU research. Can any of us prove the benefits of student activities on things like achievement or retention?
At Teesside we’ve been working on graduate outcomes for students involved in our student opportunities which has led to our publishing it here as the ‘TUSU Premium.’ In short there is a good correlation between participation and the students’ completion and attainment. We know correlation doesn’t prove causation so we asked students what they enjoyed about SU involvement and how it helped them at university, with the resulting quotes explaining the benefits the students experienced.
One of my assumptions was that the student development SU’s have done for decades used the same principles now celebrated in HE enrichment and retention. So I have also incorporated phrases from ‘What Works’ and am sure you’ll see why!
At the risk of removing the mystery here is the basic methodology to producing [your SU] Premium:
• Identify all students involved in your SU-run student opportunities
o We made a conscious decision to run this for the 3,000 ish students involved and not just those in leadership roles
• Give a list of the unique identifier e.g. student number or library card number for each student to your University Registry or stats people (befriend them first!)
• Explain to the University Registry or stats people that you are interested in seeing the HESA/HEI metrics* for this group of students to compare to the University averages
o You’ll find ‘Completion’ and ‘Good Honours’ most helpful if you want to copy the TUSU Premium headlines
• We had the results for our students and the whole population segmented into age bands, domicile, UCAS points, ethnicity, etc.
o That also allows you to calculate the % uptake for different groups – checking participation rates and SU positive impact so no student group is missing out
• Please remember any correlation you see between SU involvement and academic performance does not prove causality in either direction!
*the metrics are widely used in league tables (see the Complete University Guide for an example). The bases are different:
• Progression/completion is the % of that year’s intake who have achieved the intended award or are continuing their studies towards it
• Good Honours is the percentage of honours degrees awarded that year that were 1st and 2.1’s