A survey has found U of C students rate the university overall a seven out of 10, with good teachers the most important factor for a quality education. The survey, commissioned by the Students' Union and conducted by Claros Research, will help the SU decide how to spend $800,000 earmarked for quality initiatives.
The biggest factor for students when determining the quality of the education was having "professors who are good teachers." On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 was most important, 94.3 per cent of students ranked it 8, 9 or 10. It also had the second largest "gap" between students rating of importance (9.46) versus their current satisfaction (6.81).
"We have to put the focus back on teaching," SU Vice-President Academic Demetrios Nicolaides said. "A lot of it was, just basically, [the professors] aren't good teachers, regardless of the research they have done".
The University of Calgary Faculty Associaction President Dr. Anton Colijn believes many of his colleagues are concerned with their teaching.
"[However] there is this tension between professors being expected to do a lot of research and do a lot of teaching, but even for professors there are only 24 hours in a day," said Dr. Colijn.
Dr. Colijn also points to the negative effects of large class sizes, professors now have less interaction with students and their responsibility to mark 50 per cent of course work stretches their time constraint even further.
Of the 15 items related to receiving a quality education, classroom size was the third highest concern and 97.1 per cent thought classes were too big.
U of C Associate Vice-President Student Affairs Dr. Peggy Patterson was not surprised to see teaching top the list of student concerns.
"The availability and support of an experienced, informed guide is crucial to an educational experience for many students," said Dr. Patterson.
The survey also pointed to the financial stress being placed on students due to increasing tuition. Over two-thirds of students said they worked while going to school.
"The survey findings that the average student works 18 hours per week and uses three different sources to fund their education are not surprising," said Nicolaides. "However, research on student involvement tells us that students who work more than 20 hours per week are at risk of compromising the quality of their education."
Dr. Patterson said the university has responded to this financial concern by partnering with the SU to request raises in the living allowances available as part of the Alberta Student Loan Program.
Dr. Colijn does not believe loans and bursaries are an acceptable solution to tuition hikes. He believes the much needed funding should not come from students.
"Personally, I think tuition fees are too high," said Dr. Colijn. "They have gone up too far too fast. Having said that, I think the university has no choice. I am all in favour of excellent education but it has to be paid for and the government has to contribute."
The third most pressing concern for students was course availability.
According to Dr. Patterson, the university's enrolment growth has been challenging, since the U of C has accepted 25 per cent of all the student growth in Alberta in the last few years. She hopes that the Competitive Admission Policy adopted by the U of C will allow the university to more effectively manage enrolments and ensure the student experience is maximized.
"I think that the main answer we can hope for is the realization on the government's part that we are severely underfunded," said Dr. Colijn. "The bottom line: there just isn't enough money."
Free copies of the complete report are available from the SU office in MacEwan Student Centre.
The survey was conducted by phone and involved 1,008 students, spanning second through fifth years of study and all faculties. The margin of error for the total data collected was Â± 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.