Official and Unofficial Feedback; Getting into the students’ minds through all possible ways

In this presentation the main target is to illustrate how the University sought-after official feedback could be supported by student initiatives providing input to the real-student experience. Namely, this is the story of a very active Student Representative that shares his evidence on how the formal set survey questions, if not properly interpreted, could deceive and distort the views of the student majority on their way to the higher University authorities. The particular testbed for the presentation is a problem that concerns the University of Leeds, School of Civil Engineering. For the School, for many years now, students seem to non-engage adequately with the critical for all engineers employability actions. The official reasoning that University-held surveys uncovered is that this is an inherent issue of the Civil Engineering cohorts that despite all the many good efforts from the University they would not “pick-up” and things could never change. But wait a minute! A University that teaches that all problems have more than one solution cannot find even one for its own problem? Thinking like that the problem was attacked again but this time from a different angle. Is actually the pathology uncovered by the University correct? Let’s run another survey. Still knowing the “allergy” of students against typical surveys, that feel cold and distant, let’s twist their nature. Let them start from students, let them not be based on stiff questions, let them open up the students in a discussion-type way that makes them feel that their view counts and it will make a difference. Holding small discussion groups of 3-4 students at a time, and holding an informal agenda that mixed discussions on the problem with everyday student life “chats” the actual unofficial feedback from the unofficial initiative of a student that wants the best for his classmates uncovered something different. Contrary to what the university conjectured as unsolvable it was found to be solvable using the students’ help and input. What this experience illustrated was that engaging students in topics they think are not relevant is not easy but once there is the pathway to make things rhyme, and when there is a determined facilitator with a clear goal in mind, the students will definitely realise and engage to share their voice knowing its appreciated.