In one of the toughest years for tertiary institutions with closed borders and Covid-19 lockdowns, students have ranked the University of Waikato among the best in the world and staff have praised its response and leadership.
The University was ranked first in several measures in the biennial international i-graduate Student Barometer survey, including for its response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the learning experience provided to its students.
University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Neil Quigley, says University staff have worked extremely hard over the past two years to ensure students were supported throughout Covid and several initiatives introduced by the University were positively contributing to learner success.
“It has been one of our toughest years in many ways with international borders closed to many of our students and longer lockdowns than previously seen in 2020, causing a transition to online learning. The hard work of our staff is illustrated in the results of this survey, and they are also echoed in our recent staff wellness survey,” says Professor Quigley.
Despite the tough environment the overall pass rate for domestic and international first-year students new to the University had increased from 80.57 percent in 2019, to 82.95 percent in 2021. These students’ grade point average also rose from 4.164 in 2019 to 4.743 in 2021.
“These results show that over a really difficult period both our students and our staff rose to the challenge and our staff have demonstrated again their deep commitment to our student’s success.”
In the Student Barometer survey, satisfaction with the University’s Covid response was 93 percent, compared to a global average of 80 percent, and satisfaction with the learning experience provided was 92 percent, compared to an average of 82 percent globally.
The University’s staff wellbeing survey also ranked the University’s Covid response highly with 70.3 percent of staff saying the University had done its best to manage the impact of Covid on their wellbeing over the past two years.
They also ranked communication from the Vice-Chancellor highly at 85.2 percent and 74.7 percent of staff said the University had done its best to deal with challenging circumstances over the past two years.
Staff also reacted positively to their work, 72.3 percent saying their work gave them a feeling of a job well done and 85.1 percent believing they do useful work.
Of 1331 staff at the University, 732 responded to the wellbeing survey. The i-graduate Student Barometer survey covered five of New Zealand’s universities and included 721 international student responses. Globally, 66,469 international students and 43,724 domestic students responded from 79 universities in 14 countries.
“The results of our staff wellbeing survey show we are getting many things right, but we know there are always things we can also improve on. We can also be very proud of the fact that in a wide variety of the measures in the ISB survey, we ranked first,” says Professor Quigley.
Over the past two years the University has placed a strong focus on ensuring students have the technology and support they need to continue studying during Covid and staff have been supported in the process.
Initiatives included a new Study Advising Programme launched in February, pairing up staff with first-year students to reduce fail grades and improve retention. During the September lockdown 2050 students were personally phoned and offered support. More than 300 Chromebooks and 200 internet connections have also been provided to students since the first lockdown in 2020.
The University has also initiated Zoom consultations for both staff and students to improve the online learning environment.
“The way our staff and our students have responded to the challenges presented to us in 2021 has shown their commitment to learning and their resilience. It also reinforces the positive environment we can offer both staff and our students here at Waikato,” says Professor Quigley.