The European Higher Education Area: Between Critical Reflections and Future Policies
Bridging the gap between higher education research and policy making was always a challenge, but the recent calls for more evidence-based policies have opened a window of unprecedented opportunity for researchers to bring more contributions to shaping the future of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Encouraged by the success of the 2011 first edition, Romania and Armenia have organised a 2nd edition of the Future of Higher Education – Bologna Process Researchers’ Conference (FOHE-BPRC) in November 2014, with the support of the Italian Presidency of the European Union and as part of the official EHEA agenda. Reuniting over 170 researchers from more than 30 countries, the event was a forum to debate the trends and challenges faced by higher education today and look at the future of European cooperation in higher education. The research volumes offer unique insights regarding the state of affairs of European higher education and research, as well as forward-looking policy proposals. More than 50 articles focus on essential themes in higher education: Internationalization of higher education; Financing and governance; Excellence and the diversification of missions; Teaching, learning and student engagement; Equity and the social dimension of higher education; Education, research and innovation; Quality assurance, The impacts of the Bologna Process on the EHEA and beyond and Evidence-based policies in higher education.
How students experience higher education? What activities they conduct inside and outside classroom? Are they satisfied with teaching, with learning environments and student services? These questions are of central importance for university officials, for prospective students and their families, and for the state as the main funder of higher education in Europe. Student surveys have become one of the largest and most frequently used data source for quality assessment in higher education. The widespread use of student survey data raises questions of reliability and validity of student survey data used as evidence in higher education decision-making. This chapter addresses the development of student survey instruments and the use of student data analytics for the improvement of teaching and learning practices and learning environments. First, we discuss policy context in which student survey research has proliferated. Next, we offer an overview of the most influential student survey designs and discuss their limitations. Third, we present different institutional approaches to student data analytics as part of institutional research. In conclusion, we offer recommendations to policy-makers regarding quality standards for survey design and the use of student survey data as evidence in decision-making. Among other things we suggest that the advances in educational technology and students’ universal use of technology offer new possibilities for data collection directly from students. Methods, such as digital ethnography, which seeks to adapt qualitative methods to digital use, are particularly promising.