Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, No.1, 37-40
Published Online February 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 37
What Really Affects Student Satisfaction? An Assessment of
Quality through a University-Wide Student Survey
Giuliana Solinas, Maria Dolores Masia, Giorgio Maida, Elena Muresu
Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Sassari, Sassari, Italy
Received November 1st, 2011; revised December 8th, 2011; accepted December 15th, 2011
The analysis of students satisfaction for their university experience is important within the educational
evaluation. In this study was explored the satisfaction of students to identify which aspects of teaching
may be cause of dissatisfaction. A survey questionnaire contains items on motivations, teaching quality
and services was compiled in anonymous by the students that attending the courses of the Faculty of Sci-
ence (University of Sassari, Sardinia) during the second semester of the 2009/2010 academic year. The
internal consistency of the questionnaire was assessed by Cronbach’s Alpha. A preliminary chi square test
at stepwise logistic regression analysis was applied to evaluate the association between student satisfac-
tion and motivation, quality of teacher and services, at a 0.05 significance level. Only 403 questionnaires
were considered good with a response rate of 82.6%. The student’s satisfaction is significant different by
gender (p = .009). Significant are the items on the interest for scientific studies, the acquisition of the de-
gree as social prestige and future work (p < .05); also, the ability of teacher to stimulate and attract the
student, the encouragement, the advice to the students and the his professionality are significantly associ-
ated with the students satisfaction (p < .05). In males the main factor associated to the satisfaction is to
have achieved always good results in school (OR = 2.84, p = .036); instead, in females, the interest in
science (OR = 4.75, p = .023), the title of degree to acquire a social prestige (OR = 2.00, p = .033) and the
possibility of a future work (OR = 2.09, p = .028). Although good judgments made by students, however,
require further attention, such as such as the abandonment of the university, the time of graduation degree,
the future career, for better analysis of aspects related to the satisfaction of the quality of teaching.
Keywords: Student Characteristics; Faculty of Science; Stepwise Logistic Regression
In Italy, the need to measure the quality of teaching at the
university level is related to the process of autonomy, which
has found its consolidation with the law 370/99. This legisla-
tion has prompted Italian universities to conduct evaluations to
measure the efficiency and effectiveness of activities through
the use of objective indicators capable of providing a compara-
tive assessment of the quality of universities from the perspec-
tive of competitiveness among university facilities.
The effectiveness and efficiency can be considered together
(Lockheed, 2004), quantifying the effectiveness of students as
the outcome in terms of the value contributed by the teaching of
intellectual capacity and efficiency, that is, the ability of a uni-
versity system to complete the educational path for students
with assessments that are both quantitative and monetary.
To measure these aspects, useful support information is pro-
vided by the subjective evaluation of students attending univer-
sity courses (Emerson et al., 2000; Broder et al., 1994; Athiaya-
man, 1997).
Since the first evaluation conducted at Harvard University in
the early 1920s (Remmers, 1926) and those conducted at other
American universities (Marsh, 1987), the opinions of students
attending university courses have represented the core of the
evaluation of the quality of teaching. In the second half of last
century, the United Kingdom implemented systems to monitor
the quality of university education by having students fill out
anonymous questionnaires aimed at identifying various aspects
of teaching activities (McKeackie, 1996). This idea has been
adopted in Italian universities (CNVSU, 2002) with the par-
ticipation of students who, as users, are the determining factor
for measuring the quality provided by the system (Dumont and
Troelstrup, 1980). In the current educational system in Italy, the
reference model is that of efficiency (Fabbris & Gasparotto,
2001), in which students are “judges” of the valued aspects of
teaching such as the following: the environment, which refers
to the classrooms and areas for study in which educational ac-
tivities are carried out, including the hardware equipment and
materials; the organisation of lessons in terms of hours, sched-
ule and examinations; and the teacher’s exposition of the sub-
jects, the stimulus of student interest in the subjects and the
teacher’s willingness to interact with students. Therefore, uni-
versity students represent the final users and the principal actors
of the formative services, and their perceived quality is essen-
tial for planning changes that would increase the level of qual-
ity of these services. The feedback students provide can also be
useful to the chairperson of the course or the dean, allowing
them to make comparisons between the courses and arrange-
ments to improve teaching performance.
During the second semester of the 2009/2010 academic year,
a survey was conducted to explore the satisfaction of students
attending courses at the Faculty of Science (University of Sas-
sari, Sardinia, Italy), with the aim of identifying the aspects of
teaching that may be causes of dissatisfaction and to prevent
students from dropping out of their university studies.
Data Collection and Measures
For the purposes of the survey, a questionnaire was con-
structed considering the aspects proposed by the National
Committee for the Evaluation of the University System (www. The questionnaire was structured into
three main parts. The first part detailed the demographic char-
acteristics of the students (gender, age, residence, school type
and grade), the education of the parents and the occupations of
the parents and the university courses chosen, the year of en-
rolment, and the academic status (full-time student or student
employee). The second part contained binary items (yes/no)
regarding the choice of the course; the motivation for that
choice, including the influence of relatives and friends; and
motivations that could push the student to interrupt their studies.
Finally, the third part contained questions about the services
offered by the university, which were measured using Likert
scale scores expressed in 4 dimensions with the assumption of
ordinals from dissatisfied to very satisfied (Likert, 1932). The
questions about the level of satisfaction with the teaching were
expressed on a nominal scale in the form of positive or nega-
The questionnaires (n = 492) were administered during the
second semester of the 2009/2010 academic year by tutors for
undergraduate courses. The questionnaire was self-completed
anonymously. The time given to complete the entire question-
naire was approximately 15 min.
A total of 403 questionnaires were considered for statistical
analysis. Of the questionnaires administered 48 (9.8%) were
discarded because were completed by students who did not
regularly attend the courses and 41 (8.3%) containing missing
data and unreliable answers.
Table 1 displays the main characteristics of the study sample.
The sample consisted of 269 females (67%) and 134 males
(33%). The mean age of the sample was 21.7 years 3.6. Sixty-
two point five percent of the students were less than 21 age
years old, 24.2% were between the ages of 22 to 25 years old;
and 13.3% of the students were more than 25 years old.
A high percentage of students were full-time (73.4%). With
respect to the educational institution, 54.2% came from science-
oriented high schools. With respect to the grade level achieved
in high school, 11.4% of the sample achieved a maximum grade
(100/100); 43.7% achieved a grade less than 80; and 44.9%
achieved a grade between 80 and 99.
Table 1.
Characteristics of the sample.
Characteristics n mean ± sd or %
Age (year) Gender 403 21.7 ± 3.6
Males 134 33%
Females 269 67%
Residents in the universitary town 149 37%
Full time students 293 73.4%
Grade level 403 80.9 ± 11.6
Data Analysis
The internal consistency of the items of the questionnaire
was assessed by Cronbach’s Alpha (α) index (Cronbach, 1951):
where ρ is the average correlation between each pair of items
and k the number of items. The closer α is to 1, the more reli-
able the satisfaction level expressed. The first version of the
questionnaire was administered to a sample of 192 student
volunteers who participated a pilot study, and items with an α
value of less than .25 were eliminated, as described in the lit-
erature (Barbaranelli & Natali, 2005; Nunnally & Bernstein,
1994). A value of alpha = .85, calculated for the final version of
the questionnaire, indicated a good internal consistency of the
questionnaire. The inclusion of the questionnaires in an ad-hoc
database developed with Access 2007 allowed the storage of
data. Automated controls, corresponding to the logical connec-
tion of the various information collected, facilitated the control
of the quality of data collected.
A descriptive statistical analysis was performed on the quan-
titative variables, and the statistics were reported as the mean ±
standard deviation (SD) or as a percentage (%). To investigate
the relationship between motivations, a chi square test was
applied to the quality of the teacher and services with a level of
significance of .05. A logistic regression analysis was used to
determine the predictive effect of motivation and the quality of
the teaching and services on satisfaction. Table 2 reports the
covariates included in the model. In the stepwise procedure, a
significance level of .20 was used to remove variables from the
model, and a value of .10 was used to insert variables. The data
were processed and analysed with STATA 9.
Table 2.
Independent variables used in the logistic model.
Motivations Item
M1 I’ve always had good results at school
M2 Difficulty finding work
M3 Desire of parents to continue their studies
M4 Interest in scientific studies
M5 To acquire a degree
M6 Future work
M7 Traditionally, the family and advice of friends and
S1 Completeness of the information (classes, programs)
S2 Timeliness of information (lessons, programs)
S3 Frequency tests
S4 Student desk
S5 Availability of computers, copiers, PCs, Internet
S6 Classroom lectures, reading room
S7 Timetable lessons
S8 Quality and availability of library resources
T1 Quality of teaching materials
T2 Teacher clarity
T3 Ability of teacher to stimulate and attract the student’s
T4 To provide encouragement and advice to the students
T5 Teacher’s professionalità
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
The response rate of the survey study was 82.6%. In response
to the question “Are you satisfied with the choice of faculty?”
75.8% of students reported they were satisfied.
The results of the bivariate analysis are reported in Table 3.
Student satisfaction significantly differed between the gen-
ders (χ2 = 6.81 p = .009). The choice of the Faculty regarding
the interest in scientific studies, the acquisition of a degree for
social prestige (M4, χ2 = 12.21, p = .001) and future work
prospects (M6, χ2 = 8.8, p = .003) were significantly associated
with the students’ satisfaction, as were the ability of teachers to
stimulate and maintain the interest of the student (T3, χ2 =
11.44, p = .01), the encouragement given to students (T4, χ2 =
8.99, p = .029), and the teachers’ professionalism (T5, χ2 =
12.55, p = .006).
With respect to the quality of services (Table 4), only 88 stu-
dents (21.8%) claimed to be unsatisfied with the services of-
The satisfaction results were associated with the factors re-
lated to motivation and teaching (Table 5). In particular, the
interest in science (M4) increased the chances of satisfaction
(OR = 3.84, p = .008); also, the ambition for future work (M6)
Table 3.
Bivariate analysis between satisfaction (Yes, No) and demographic
characteristics of students, motivations, quality of teacher.
Characteristics: Test chi square value p-value
Gender (Females, Males)
Type of high school
(scientific, others)
- M1
- M2
- M3
- M4
- M5
- M6
- M7
- T1
- T2
- T3
- T4
- T5
Table 4.
Satisfaction of students on quality of services.
Services Dissatisfied Satisfied Very satisfied Extremely satisfied
S1 15.2% 31.6% 44.9% 8.3%
S2 17.2% 37.0% 38.2 7.6%
S3 15.6% 32.5% 38.3% 12.6%
S4 24.6% 41.4% 29.3% 4.7%
S5 29.8% 34.7% 23.6% 11.9%
S6 18.8% 29.1% 38.7% 12.4%
S7 12.2% 39.8% 41.1% 6.9%
S8 17.2% 32.7% 40.6% 9.5%
Table 5.
Odd Ratio (OR), Confidence Interval (95% CI) and p-value from stepwise
logistic regression for student satisfaction on choice of Faculty.
Item OR 95% CI p-value
M4 (Yes vs No)3.84 1.42 - 10.41 .008
M5 (Yes vs No)2.04 1.17 - 3.57 .012
T3 (Yes vs No) 1.87 1.21 - 2.91 .005
T4 (Yes vs No) 1.58 1.05 - 2.37 .028
was the most expected motivation, being strongly associated
with the choice of the Faculty (OR = 2.02, p = .012).
An important role was played by the ability of the teacher to
stimulate and maintain the students’ attention (OR = 1.87, p
= .005) and by the teacher’s capacity to provide encouragement
and advice to the students (OR = 1.58, p = .028).
A stepwise logistic regression analysis by gender showed
that in males, the main factor associated with satisfaction was
to have always achieved good results in school (M1, OR = 2.84,
p = .036); in females, the interest in science (M4, OR = 4.75, p
= .023), the title of the degree to acquire social prestige (M5,
OR = 2.00, p = .033) and the possibility of future work (M6,
OR = 2.09, p = .028) were the principal motivations associated
with the choice of the Faculty. Furthermore, the timeliness of
information (S2) was strongly associated with student satisfac-
tion (OR = 1.49, p = .02), as was the ability of the teacher to
stimulate and maintain the students’ attention (OR = 2.69, p
< .001).
In this survey, the quality of teaching was measured by con-
sidering the satisfaction of students in relation to motivation,
the services offered and the quality of teachers.
The high consistency of the questionnaire, as demonstrated
by the Cronbach’s alpha, validated the scores of the items and
allows understanding, through the opinions of students, what
factors play a role in assessing the quality of teaching.
As reported by Herzberg et al. (1967), the factors influencing
satisfaction are different from those causing dissatisfaction.
Generally, dissatisfaction is linked to factors that are part of the
environment and, therefore, the context in which teaching takes
place; conversely, satisfaction comes from the perception of a
mismatch between the actual result and the expected result.
As regard the descriptive analysis, the mean age of the sam-
ple was higher than the typical age of graduate students; this is
a result of the long duration of the degree course.
In addition, the reform of the Italian university system, with
the consequent reduction in the years of study required to ac-
quire the degree, has caused those in previous years who had
opted for the “non-continuation” of studies to rethink their de-
The increase in female participation in the university system,
which has taken place in Italy since the second half of the
1970s, has certainly fostered a significant change in the more
traditional manifestations of gender difference. This aspect is
highlighted by the fact that the latest generations of women are
more likely to continue their studies than males.
In this survey, in fact, more of the sample were women, who
represent approximately 70% of the student population enrolled
in the Faculty of Science of the University of Sassari (MIUR,
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 39
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
To investigate on question “What factors really affect the
students’ satisfaction” was applied the logistic regression analysis.
It revealed that the interest in science represents the principal
motivation, followed by the ambition for future work. Also, an
important role is represented by the ability of the teacher to
maintain the students’ attention and to provide encouragement
and advice. We also found that the efficiency of services, in
particular the timeless of information have a positive influence
on the student’s satisfaction.
These variables influence variously the students’ satisfaction
between genders: for males it was a decisive “encouragement”
to have always achieved good results in school, while the ap-
preciation of science was the most important motivation for
females. Several studies have shown that gender and social
class influence the choice of university courses (Schizzerotto &
Barone, 2006; Pisati, 2002; Shavit, 2003; Mansfield, 2006).
The judgments made by students require further attention in
several areas, including the abandonment of university studies,
the time to complete a degree, and future careers, to better ana-
lyse aspects related to satisfaction with the quality of teaching.
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