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International students at KTH are pleased with the teachers' skills but want more contact with the business community during the course of their education. (Photo: Jack Mikrut)

Foreign students want more service

Published Apr 24, 2012

The teachers' subject knowledge is good and they provide a high quality education at KTH, according to the international students. On the other hand, they lack contact with the business community and are dissatisfied with their reception at the beginning of the term. This is revealed from the world's largest student barometer.

Eva Malmström Jonsson

“KTH receives mixed responses in the survey; some things are positive and some things negative. Now, it is up to us to put the results to good use and try to bring about improvements,” says Eva Malmström Jonsson, KTH's Deputy President.

KTH is participating in the barometer for the second time, and it is regarded as the world's biggest survey of its kind. More than 200,000 international students participated from 238 European universities and university colleges. In a web questionnaire, the students replied to questions as to what degree they appreciate the university they study at. The total picture corresponds to a kind of Satisfied Customer Index.

Both KTH and the other 13 Swedish universities that participated in the barometer received relatively high values with regard to the teaching environment. This applies for example to the teachers' skills, the design of the courses and the library resources.

“Of course it is inspiring to find that KTH received such excellent evaluations with regard to the quality of the teachers and courses. However, we are just below average with regard to research. I think we need to put more effort into demonstrating the excellent research that is being carried out at KTH, and, as far as possible, make the students more involved in what is going on.”

“This is truly regrettable”

The less flattering figures, for example, relate to the students' views of their first time at KTH. The welcome activities receive a 17 per cent lower index and the category “Host friends”, i.e. mentoring, receives a 27 per cent lower index compared with other European universities. This is where KTH also ends up much lower down than the average in relation to the other Swedish universities.

“It is truly regrettable and something we have to deal with directly. Several initiatives have already been taken, for example THS International has presented an excellent idea for a mentor programme. But we must of course work with several different initiatives to make a good impression on the newly arrived students. We will be professional and inclusive throughout the entire process,” says Eva Malmström Jonsson.

KTH has also, like the other Swedish universities, weak ratings on issues of employability (9 per cent below average) and in terms of connecting the educational programme to a future career (20 per cent lower). It refers among other things, to how the educational programme connects with the business community and access to a career service. Compared with last year, the survey certainly demonstrates the students' greater satisfaction, but from low levels.

“This means that we must intensify our work with the issue so that the students will have a more positive image of us. We know that KTH has had very good contacts within the business community for a very long time. And this is something we shall make visible.”

Students lack additional income

One of the most prioritised measures to be taken by KTH, according to Eva Malmström Jonsson, is to clarify what type of support is offered on career issues and, if necessary, strengthen it.

“I know, for example, that a variety of seminars are offered at KTH. Perhaps we need to supplement it with more CV-drop-ins and other activities.”

The barometer also indicates that students are not particularly satisfied with the extra work opportunities during the time they spend at KTH. Currently no full cost scholarships for studies at KTH are offered.

“Of course, we shall endeavour to find such scholarships so that we can offer them to the very best students. A small step in that direction may be to ensure to a greater extent that students are given the opportunity to work a few hours a week at a department, in the administration, or why not at a partner company. My impression is that there is an interest in this from many quarters,” says Eva Malmström Jonsson.

In total, the survey shows that KTH is nevertheless rather good, she says.

“I think it looks reasonably good. What may surprise people the most on the negative side is the relatively low ratings on research-related issues. We are a research university, we must make this even clearer in the courses and the educational programmes, not least at advanced level.”

Links to working life

As regards the link to working life, KTH should be able to obtain better results in future surveys, she believes.

“It is possible that the current weak evaluations can be interpreted such that we are engaged in education peripheral to research and collaboration with the business community. Or do the teachers have too much to do, that they simply do not have the time to point to the connections to research and the business community?”

At the top of the Deputy President's things-to-do list are questions relating to how students are received, contact with Swedish students and the career service.

I do not want to say that there are a few obvious measures that must be taken, it is more a question of continuous improvements. It is more important to analyse what we do today to see how we can improve in these areas. Obviously, I hope to see till that there are improvements by the time next year's student barometer takes place.

Text:Christer Gummeson

More information:The results from the student barometer are to be presented by a representative from iGraduates at a lunch seminar on April 25 at KTH. If you want to attend, and if you require more information, please contact Annifrid Pålsson, annifrid@kth.se, at KTH's student recruitment service.