The International Student Barometer – how do we rate?

By Marius Vermaak 

International students had the chance to air their views on the quality of their “Rhodes experience” in a survey conducted in August. Rhodes has 1300 international students, or 22% of the total student body. 428 chose to complete the survey.

All international students were invited to participate in the International Student Barometer, a web-based survey questionnaire, developed by independent UK company, I-Graduate. I-Graduate offers evaluation and monitoring services to a group of universities that includes heavy weights such as the University of Cambridge, King’s College London, and locally University of Cape Town. The International Office and the Academic Planning and Quality Assurance Unit at Rhodes commissioned the study.

Both the response rate and the results were good. Brian Fitzpatrick, a second year BSc student from Zimbabwe, was the lucky winner of the incentive R500 Musica voucher prize. The data from the survey are still being analysed and will be available on the International Office website in due course (http://www.ru.ac.za/international/).

In the meantime, here are some of the highlights from the executive summary of the ISB report. The ISB measures the importance of, and satisfaction with, the learning, living and support elements of student life. Responses are compared to a benchmark set by 27 other participating universities. Rhodes scored well above the international benchmarks for satisfaction ratings for all aspects of the learning experience. International students showed some unhappiness with opportunities for earning money in Grahamstown, with financial support and the cost of accommodation. Students expressed high levels (35%) of dissatisfaction with the services provided by SA Embassies.

Support services that scored high levels of satisfaction were the Student Bureau (94%), the Fees Office (87%) and Student Counselling (90%, which considerably outperforms the ISB benchmark). Rhodes did especially well on internet facilities (94%) and opportunities for worship (90%). Good news is that 92% of international students would “recommend this university to others” while fewer than 1% would bad mouth Rhodes.

The ISB was a very valuable experience and the Dean of the International Office plans to use the data to further improve the quality of the academic and living experience of international students at Rhodes. The ISB might be applied every year and might perhaps in future be extended to all students.

Marius Vermaak is the dean of Rhodes University’s International Office.

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