Students in Africa are Among the Most Dissatisfied Globally

African universities score poorly on all metrics of student satisfaction save for online classroom experience where South African institutions scored higher than the global average, according to the 2023 Global Student Satisfaction Awards report just released.

South Africa scored significantly higher in student diversity and quality of student life compared to Nigeria, except for student-teacher interaction.

The 2023 Global Student Satisfaction Awards (GSSA) are based on data from 126,000 reviews from students representing 200 nationalities and 3,661 institutions in 126 countries, including South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. Global winners are awarded across seven categories.

The awards are hosted by the European student advisory company Studyportals in partnership with Unibuddy and British Council IELTS (International English Language Testing System).

The report, titled The Global Student Satisfaction Awards and Report: A student-centric approach, presents an in-depth analysis of students’ experiences.

The awards are based on student reviews. They rate their study experience on a scale from one to five in the following areas, according to the report: overall satisfaction, student-teacher interaction, admission process, student diversity, quality of student life, career development, and online classroom experience. Domestic and international students contributed reviews.

The GSSA scored only South Africa and Nigeria in Sub-Saharan Africa, where it emerged that overall student satisfaction in the two countries was low at 3.98 and 3.77, respectively, compared to the global average of 4.21.

Nigeria’s lowest score was in terms of quality of student life with a score of 3.45 against a global average of 4.33, while South Africa’s worst score was in terms of career development prospects where the country scored 3.78 against the global average of 4.08.

Online experience score high

South African universities, however, score 3.96 in the online classroom experience category against a global mean score of 3.86.

“It was a fully remote and fully online degree. We had very supportive WhatsApp study groups and our lecturers were active on the Portal page, answering questions and guiding us when needed. Exam dates were postponed a couple of times due to many students receiving course material a bit late and other political issues in South Africa,” one student said.

Egypt was grouped with Iran and Turkey under the Middle East and North Africa, beating both countries in all categories save for online classroom experience, where it scored 3.42 against the 3.86 world average. The country’s other worst performance was in the career development prospects category where it scored 3.91 against a world mean of 4.08.

While Nigerian students were unhappy over frequent and lengthy lecturer strikes and the quality of teaching and available facilities, those in South Africa who responded cited crime as their main challenge.

“There are never-ending strikes, outdated curricula, and a persistent lack of adequate teaching facilities. Although my university is ranked as one of the best institutions of higher learning in the country, the teaching methods employed by the lecturers still have a long way to go,” one Nigerian student participant said in the report.

Many challenges in Africa

“Africa has a large demographic of young, talented students who are increasingly looking to study, and this is also indicated by the willingness and ability to study abroad,” Karl Baldacchino, Studyportals researcher and co-author of the report, told University World News.

Catering to a large cohort of university-aged students poses a lot of challenges at the infrastructure level, including a limited number of places for students, a high student-teacher ratio, and a general lack of financial resources.

“I would venture to say also it wouldn’t be surprising if graduates from African institutions might be comparing their experience with those who’ve studied abroad, creating much reflection on what is the best time and cost to gain the best experience and quality education,” Baldacchino said.

“There is no doubt that African institutions cannot provide that quality and experience, but rather African students share the same expectations of students from the West and developed countries in the East,” he said, referring to the low satisfaction levels on the continent.

African countries, he said, have had a fair share of challenges that are not easy to overcome, adding that many students, especially in this age of ‘connectivity’, want to see their universities uphold similar standards of care and service as other higher educational institutions around the world.

“This extends to whether universities show the same understanding towards affordability concerns and safety due to national or regional challenges.”

Inadequate responses skew results

Cara Skikne, Studyportals senior editor, told University World News: “A university qualifies for the awards with 30 or more reviews. However, when we look at satisfaction on a country level in the supplementary data, there are at least three institutions reviewed.”

While a total of 10 African countries qualified for the survey, only seven (Kenya, Cameroon, Ghana, Mauritius, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia) had at least one institution receiving reviews. This makes the data “indicative of the country’s student satisfaction performance, but not as reliable,” Skikne explained.

It is interesting, she observed, that the average ratings for Mauritius were “largely better” than that of other African countries, despite the only institution in the country assessed receiving an inadequate number of reviews. “Cameroon, in particular, has room to improve its students’ satisfaction, while Namibia is doing quite well in terms of satisfaction with admissions and student diversity,” she said.

On the other hand, Ghana and Nigeria tightly compete in the average ratings for overall satisfaction, admissions, and online experiences, she said, while Kenya, Cameroon, Ghana, Mauritius, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia had only one university reviewed by more than 30 students.

Student satisfaction up after COVID-19

Despite the outcome, student satisfaction with university education has increased post COVID-19, according to the report. The surge it notes in the summary has been driven by students’ return to campus, and universities improving their online learning offerings.

Overall global student satisfaction rose to 4.21 from 4.06 in 2021, and, despite being the lowest-rated category, online classroom experience saw the largest growth – 7.2% – followed by quality of student life, which increased by 6.4%, the report notes.

“Student satisfaction is higher across all categories, and this is a fantastic compliment to the higher education sector,” Studyportals CEO and Co-founder Edwin van Rest said.

Internationally, Hungary is the country with the highest overall levels of student satisfaction at 4.39, while Spain’s University of Navarra was the overall GSSA winner.

The GSSA empowers students from all over the globe to have a say in determining the best institutions to attend, based on student experience. These biennial awards serve as an open call to both students and universities to enhance the transparency of academic options and the quality of education globally.

Source – University World News