We all come to university to learn and to get a degree. This is one of the main reasons we’re here, but making the decision to come to university can be about so much more than that. In the era of Online education, why do we still choose to go to university? There’s something deeper involved in our decision-making,the reason we choose the institution we choose and it can be different for everyone.
This month, I wanted to talk about the student experience. Student experience has featured heavily in conversations about a potential new university, but what does it actually mean?
In the UniSA Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS) for 2021, when asked what is most important to students, “University Life” was ranked first while “Teaching and Learning” was ranked second. This sounds like a strange statistic until you start to look at the various reasons why students come to university.
Here at UniSA, we’re proud of the fact that a lot of our students are “first in family”. Students who are first in their family are usually from lower SES backgrounds, and for them, University can be about charting a new path for them and their family. For some, it’s about independence or the opportunity to enter a career no one in their family has ever had.
We have such a diverse student community here at UniSA. For a lot of students, it may be the first time that they get to be themselves. This is the case for many students who, for whatever reason, have not been able to be themselves either at home or at school. This is particularly true for people who are queer. Many people choose to wait to go to university before coming out because it is a safer environment to do so. This is particularly true for students who come from countries where it’s not safe and sometimes illegal to be a member of the queer community.
When we go to school, we’re often surrounded by people who don’t necessarily share our interests, but that all changes when we come to university. You’re in a cohort of people who are passionate about what you’re passionate about, and whether it’s in the classroom or through extra-curricular activities, you’re able to find your people.
The friendships that people make at university seem to endure much longer than those from school. For some people, it’s a step into adulthood where they start to define who they are and where they fit into society.
For others, University can be about exploring our passions. In the first two weeks of my law course prior to the pandemic, I remember sitting around with my new friends, having just left the Torts A lecture, fiercely debating everything from politics to social media for 2-3 hours.
For some people, it’s the first time they get to be a part of a community. On Fridays, when I’ve had time, I’ve often ventured over to the CardBoard Games Club game nights for a game or two just to connect and relax. Others find community through playing games together online, building rockets, riding motorcycles, doing outdoor activities, or even through their appreciation of beer.
Importantly University is a mind-expanding experience when you are exposed to new viewpoints. It can challenge us, and through those challenges, we grow as people.
As we head into uncertain times, it’s about recognising that students don’t just come to get a degree and leave; University is about so much more than that.