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AFR: Little known Marcus Oldham College tops all universities in student satisfaction

By Tim Dodd

As published in the Australian Financial Review, May 15, 2016.

A specialist private college has beaten all of Australia's universities in student satisfaction, according to a large-scale survey published on the federal government's new search engine to help students choose higher education courses.

New data released last week on the Quality Indicators for Teaching and Learning (QILT) website last week shows that students rated Geelong agriculture and equine business institution Marcus Oldham College as the best in Australia for its overall education experience.

Ninety-three per cent of students at Marcus Oldham rated their overall experience as satisfactory, higher than any university. Another specialist higher education institution, Melbourne's Photography Studies College which offers a bachelor of photography, was second with a 92 per cent overall satisfaction rating.

The highest rated universities are both private, Bond and Notre Dame. They rated at 90 per cent and 89 per cent respectively.

Most of Australia's prestigious public universities did not perform nearly as well. The best-rated public university was the little known University of the Sunshine Coast with 88 per cent overall satisfaction.

The satisfaction ratings are compiled each year from a survey (supported by the universities) to which all undergraduate students are invited to respond. This is the first time that results from non-university higher education providers, such as Marcus Oldham College, have been published on the QILT website, which opened last September.

Many public universities rated far lower on the overall student experience measure including the University of Sydney (77 per cent), the University of NSW (76 per cent), the University of WA (75 per cent), La Trobe University (75 per cent) and Western Sydney University (78 per cent).

University of Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence said the QILT data was concerning for the University of Sydney, which has recently responded  by announcing a major overhaul of its undergraduate courses and more support for classroom teachers.

However Dr Spence also said that in analysing the survey results "one has to be careful in comparing like with like" given that his university had 63,000 students in a whole range of disciplines.

Marcus Oldham College and the Photography Studies College did not only do well in overall satisfaction, they also beat all universities in students' rating of teaching quality, learner engagement and student support

However private colleges generally offer a very narrow range of degrees. For example Marcus Oldham's only bachelor degrees are a bachelor of business (agriculture) and a bachelor of business (agribusiness). And the Photography Studies College's only  bachelor degree is a bachelor of photography.

Students must pay full fees for degrees with nearly all courses offered by non-university higher education providers.

They received a setback when the Pyne higher education reforms, announced two years ago, were knocked back by the Senate because they would have given non-university providers such as Marcus Oldham College access to federal government course subsidies equivalent to the ones enjoyed by public universities and their students would have received HECS-HELP student loans.

The chief executive of the Council of Private Higher Education Adrian McComb said nearly 10 per cent of enrolments in higher education were with education providers that are not universities.

He said that equity demanded that all undergraduate students should be eligible for HECS, irrespective of where they studied, because all institutions were registered by the same regulator.

The recent federal budget allocated $8 million over the next four years to improve the QILT website, adding more information courses which will include fees, admission requirements and alternative ways of entering courses. It will also add information on employer satisfaction with the skills and work readiness of graduates of particular courses.

Read more: http://www.afr.com/leadership/careers/little-known-marcus-oldham-college-tops-all-universities-in-student-satisfaction-20160512-got7si#ixzz4AqqsnU4D 

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