UTU collects systematically versatile feedback but should provide students feedback on their feedback
The University of Turku has a common and systematic approach to collecting and reflecting feedback on students’ needs. The UTU-level feedback systems consist of annual surveys for first-year students, bachelor’s and master’s students and graduates. The Teaching and Learning Council (TLC) supervises the feedback systems and discusses the results and improvement measures.
Besides these UTU-level feedback mechanisms, faculties and units have their own feedback surveys. At the faculty level, the teaching development teams have an important role in monitoring the achievement of learning outcomes and the quality of degree programmes. Direct student-teacher interaction, formal as well as informal, is also an essential part of the University’s feedback culture. The audit interviews highlighted many positive examples of using feedback to improve the quality of education and related services.
The Student Union is involved in the feedback system by participating in the TLC. They can also discuss overarching management questions directly with the Rectorate, such as the impact of the cost-cutting programme on the Pori and Rauma campuses and their students, thus ensuring students’ needs are considered.
Based on teaching staff interviews, the staff aims to respond quickly to student feedback. Teachers often discuss student feedback with each other and in development discussions with their supervisors. However, students stated that teachers vary widely in how they informed students about changes made in response to feedback. Based on the audit interviews, this is partly related to teachers’ autonomy and partly to the fact that feedback-on-feedback is not part of the feedback system. There is also a systematic issue with the low response rates of course feedback questionnaires. The audit team recommends a more systematic approach to give feedback-on-feedback, especially on measures taken due to the previous year’s feedback. In addition, feedback and its utilisation should be better communicated to students.
As for the implementation of the quality management system in education, the University of Turku has the necessary structures in place but is still in the process of fully embracing quality management in teaching and learning.
There is a new quality instrument being introduced, namely the self-evaluation of study programmes. The TLC will conduct them every two years for all first and second-cycle degree programmes within UTU, which is a promising step towards a more comprehensive quality system. The audit team recommends that the University further develop and utilise the self-evaluation of study programmes in systematically monitoring and developing programmes.
UTU should ensure equal influencing possibilities for all students
Despite good communication between the Student Union and the University and faculty-level management, three specific student groups need further attention regarding equal influencing possibilities: continuous learning students, international students and doctoral researchers.
As continuous learning and Open University, students are not full-time and have diverse backgrounds. They have no representation in UTU bodies and interaction with existing structures such as the Student Union. Therefore, the University of Turku and the Student Union should consider integrating them more than they have so far.
Furthermore, better integration of international students into the UTU community is a challenge identified by all actors. Examples of good practices highlighted during the audit visit include welcoming and other social events, mixed groups, joint assignments, onboarding buddies and student tutors. There is also a special Student Union Board member for internationalisation, but no international students have been represented in the Student Union since the pandemic. According to interviews, involving international students in decision-making is difficult due to language issues. Furthermore, exchange students often have little or no contact with Finnish degree students. The University of Turku is recommended to emphasise integrating international students into the UTU community and Finnish society.
Doctoral researchers have their main representation in the UTUGS Management Team, but their group identity seems not yet concluded. While doctoral researchers are significant in university life, goals and general research are often overlooked. By starting a university-wide discussion about their role in the organisation and which kind of representation would fit their status group, UTU could get valuable ideas for further organisational development.
The needs of staff and students are considered in the development of support services
Based on the interview with UTU services representatives, the services work closely with teachers and students and continuously gather feedback to improve their offerings to support the University of Turku management, staff and students in their work and studies. The audit team also welcomes the fact that services cooperate.
The audit visit showed that, for example, career services have focused on career support for students, but now there is also a focus on career support for teachers. The library supports both undergraduate and postgraduate students by offering literature courses. The Communication Unit supports students in making a difference in their studies and communicates with potential applicants, future employers, and the public about UTU provisions and activities. Digital Services promote the development of education management and database systems. All services recognised their role in promoting UTU’s strategy.