Half of all third-level students never talk to lecturers about career plans

More than 33% of students do not discuss performance with academic staff – survey

Half of all third-level students have never talked about career plans with their lecturers, according to a major national study.

More than a third said they had never discussed their performance with academic staff. The poll of more than 38,000 students in Irish third-level institutions included questions on student-faculty interaction, effective teaching practices and learning strategies.

Two-thirds said they had never worked with academic staff on activities other than coursework while more than 40 per cent said they had never discussed course topics or ideas with lecturers outside of class.

The figures are contained in the Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE), which asked students directly about their experience of higher education during the 2017-2018 academic year.


A fifth said lecturers and teaching staff provided “very little” feedback on a draft or work in progress. More than a third of students said their third-level institution provided very little help in managing non-academic responsibilities.

The majority of students said their third-level institution provided 'quite a bit' or 'very much' support to help students succeed academically

A quarter of participants said lecturers “very much” taught in an organised way while a third said “some” provided “prompt and detailed feedback on tests or completed assignments”.

The majority of students said their third-level institution provided “quite a bit” or “very much” support to help students succeed academically. Over half said they would evaluate their entire education experience at the institution as “good” and close to a third said “excellent”.

Some 3 per cent described their experience as “poor” and just over 15 per cent said “fair”.

Postgraduate research

Separately, the ISSE has published a pilot survey of over 2,900 postgraduate research students.

About 40 per cent said they had seriously considered withdrawing from their research programme due to financial reasons (17 per cent), family or personal reasons (16 per cent), health reasons (8 per cent) and employment reasons (8 per cent).

The majority of students (61 per cent) said they were in receipt of a scholarship whereas almost one in five (18 per cent) were self-funded. Most said they were satisfied they had a suitable working space and there was adequate provision of computing resources and library facilities.

The report noted there were “several requests” from participants to consider adding questions to address student mental health and wellbeing.

“It might be good to address emotional wellbeing and mental health more in the survey as this is a really important factor influencing student engagement and progress,” one student said.

Sean O’Reilly, project manager for the ISSE, said third-level institutions were continuously using the data to “enhance the experience of students”.

“We expect that data from postgraduate research students will also become a valuable evidence-base and the report of the 2018 pilot will form a key prompt for further consultation with the postgraduate research community,” he said.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times