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Factors affecting the student experience

In the last step, we asked you to articulate your definitions of each of four frequently used terms referring to the student experience. We invite you now to adopt a holistic approach when thinking about the student experience and consider the factors affecting experience as well as the cautious use of terms we identified earlier.

“(…) we can never assume that the impact of teaching on student learning is what we expect it to be. Students’ thoughts and actions are profoundly affected by the educational context or environment in which they learn. (…) Good teaching involves striving continually to learn about students’ understanding and the effect of teaching on it”. (Ramsden, 1992, p. 6).

The concept of student experience is complex. It has been discussed since the 1930s (by Dewey, 1938) and has received renewed interest in recent years. The current focus is on a broader representation of what it means for a student to be a student and the experience associated with earning a university qualification.

Many factors affect the student experience. Some are directly related to learning and teaching, while others have to do with life beyond the class. All affect the way students experience learning and influence their level of satisfaction.

When thinking about the student experience at university we need to think beyond teaching and transmitting or receiving information.

Factors affecting the contemporary student experience include:

  • large increases in student numbers e.g. in Australia from 1 million in 2008, to over 1.4 million in 2015, (DET 2008, 2015), or in the UK over 2.25 million (HESA, 2015-16),
  • student fees and HE funding models
  • admission standards
  • evolving issues around equity
  • internationalisation (James, French & Kelly, 2017)
  • blended and distance education.

More specifically, the methods of teaching shape the way student engage with learning and teaching. For example, it is legitimate to question whether the traditional face-to-face teaching is equivalent to new modes like blended or fully online.

As another example, now that university fees are becoming a long-term investment/debt for students, the student as consumer has gained greater importance. This has got repercussions about what students actually expect from the educational experiences offered by universities and the way universities cater for learners.

These explain why we now have changing perceptions about the student experience beyond satisfaction with teaching, which can be understood by taking a holistic perspective.

Talking point

Several factors have been identified as affecting the student experience. In your context, identify one factor you have observed as having an effect on the student experience and in one sentence explain how it affects the student experience.

Want to know more?

If you would like to more about this topic on factors affecting the student experience there are additional resources listed in the Want to know more.pdf for this step.


Department of Education and Training (2008). Selected higher education statistics – 2008 Student Data. Canberra: Department of Education and Training.

Department of Education and Training. (2015). Selected higher education statistics – 2015 Student Data. Canberra: Department of Education and Training.

Dewey, J. (1938).Education and experience. New York: Macmillan, 1938.

James, R., French, S. & Kelly, P. (2017). Visions for Australian tertiary education. Melbourne: Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education, The University of Melbourne.

Ramsden, P. (1992). Learning to teach in higher education. London: Routledge, 1992.

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

UNSW Sydney