J. Service Science & Management, 2010, 3, 464-469
doi:10.4236/jssm.2010.34052 Published Online December 2010 (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/jssm)
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
On the Contribution of Student Experience Survey
Regarding Quality Management in Higher
Education: An Institutional Study in Saudi Arabia
Abdullah Al Rubaish
Office of the Presid e n t , Uni v ersity of Dammam, Damma m, Saudi Arabia.
Email: arubaish@hotmail.com
Received August 28th, 2010; revised October 9th, 2010; accepted Nov ember 14th, 2010.
We appraise comparatively and analytical data under Student Experience Survey (SES) to discuss the possible gener-
alizability of related College level differentials in Saudi Arabia. For this, data collected from students of two academic
programs namely Bachelor of Dental Surgery, College of Dentistry; and B.Sc. Nursing, College of Nursing, University
of Dammam, Dammam, Saudi Ara bia, were considered. These data relate to experience of students halfway of respec-
tive academic program. The percentage of participation in SES by students was 100% and 94% respectively. Students
of neither the programs reported h igh quality p erceptio n about an y of the 20 items considered under SES. With a target
of satisfaction by a t least 50% students, students from College of Nursing expressed better satisfaction than those from
the College of Dentistry. Same is true in case of aiming to achieve satisfaction by at least 75% students. However, to
gain satisfaction by at lea st 80% students, each of the 20 items in both colleg es need focus of colleg e as well a s univer-
sity administrators towards required improvements. In summary, suitable to its varying environment, each pro-
gram/college in a university requires specific improvement planning .
Keywords: Student Experie nce Survey, Academic Program, Higher Education, High Quality, Acceptable and Improve-
ment Required Perception
1. Introduction
The assessment of educational quality un der an academic
program, through students’ satisfaction, is one of the
important aspects regarding quality management in
higher education. Further, the global acceptance of ob-
servations from students’ evaluation surveys regarding
improvements in higher education, is a well known phe-
nomenon. Hence, there is much literature and ongoing
research on the topic [1]. Although some key issues have
already been addressed, many still require attention.
Writing about existing gaps in our collective knowledge,
and, making suggestions for further research, Gravestock
and Gregor-Greenleaf identified two issues of major
concern: namely “understanding evaluation’s users” and
“educating evaluation’s users” [1].
The interpretation of evaluation results for users is,
basically, bipolar: institutional and unit-specific. It ad-
dresses the needs of disparate users, ranging from policy
makers and administrators, through faculty and staff
members to students. This divergence of users’ needs
also must be studied [2].
Focused observational research on the decision mak-
ing process is helpful for clearer understanding of the use
of evaluation results [3]. Recently, a number of limita-
tions of students’ surveys have been reported [1,4]. In
spite of that, they continue to play a critical role in the
development of academic colleges, their programs and
There is a healthy competition among institutions of
higher education for quality education. Hence, as a con-
tinuing process, there is need of related developments
and their sustainability. For this, keeping in mind micro
and macro level requirements, institutions have to rely on
students’ ratings on different components of their core
functions, including courses, teaching skills and aca-
demic programs, as well as colleges and universities as a
whole [5-18]. If clarity is lacking in reporting, so metimes,
it becomes difficult to find out which aspect of the eval-
uation process has been c ove red [18].
The University of Dammam is currently performing
On the Contribution of Student Experience Survey Regarding Quality Management in Higher 465
Education: An Institutional Study in Saudi Arabia
several evaluations by students as required for academic
accreditation by the National Commission for Academic
Accreditation & Assessment (NCAAA). Of these, two
deal with program evaluations- viz.: Student Experience
Survey (SES) and Program Evaluation Survey (PES).
SES denotes the experience of students halfway
through a given academic program, and, PES their over-
all experience at the end. The nomenclature for PES var-
ies from one institution or country to another [4 ]. Thus, it
is called Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ) in
Australia, and, National Student Survey (NSS) in the UK.
A literature review showed that neither term-SES nor
PES -- is in common usage. In spite of our best effort, we
failed to find raw data in the public domain, or, scientific
articles in which they were mention ed.
The present article deals with students’ overall ex-
periences about academic programs. It is written from the
perspective of both an administrator and a researcher. It
describes our institution al practice, using two sets of SES
data from of our colleges. It discusses administrative use
of the measured SES results to plan for improvement of
academic programs. As an added merit [10], it is ex-
pected that the observations reported here may help those
undertaking pertinent corrective measures. They can find
also application in quality management in other institu-
tions of tertiary education.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Data
I have considered SES data from two academic programs
of University of Dammam, Dammam, Saudi Arabia. One
was from students in the 7th semester of a 12-semester
program: Bachelor of Dental Surgery, 2009-10. The oth-
er was from students in the 5th semester of an 8-semester
program: B.Sc. Nursing, 2009-10. The coverage achieved
for respondents was 20/20 and 83/88 (94%) respectively.
This observed coverage was more than two-thirds of the
class, ensuring representativeness of student evaluation
data [19].
2.2. Analytical methods
The SES questionnaire has 20 items (Appendix 1). As a
“Likert type item”, each item was in five points [1], in-
dicating the degree of agreement with a statement in as-
cending order: 1 = Strongly Disagree; 2 = Disagree; 3 =
True Sometimes; 4 = Agree; 5 = Strongly Agree.
A Likert type item is on an ordinal scale. Concerning
item by item analysis, we have already communicated
fully on the evaluation of such analyses [20]. Thus, I
used the measure adopted by NCAAA, and, three other
measures which are more appropriate and offer prob-
lem-solving potential [21]. To facilitate reference, I brie-
fly re-iterate here the four measures used [20,22].
The arithmetic mean for an item measures the core
image of the distribution of agreement scores that are
collected on an ordinal scale. Also, since related distribu-
tions are often skewed, the mean cannot be appropriate.
Two of the other three measures of location used here-
median and first quartile - are preferred to the mean in
such circumstances. These measures for an item imply
that at least 50% and 75% of respondents students re-
spectively have assigned that score or higher for the cor-
responding item.
A third appropriate measure used here is cumulative %
of students with score 4 or 5. We have argued that this
measure has at least four attributes [20,22]. It is straight
forward, easy to understand and to use by the colleges
and university level administrators. The clues obtained
are expected to be more meaningfully translated into
action towards further improvement in those programs.
The performance grading criteria for items under the
four measures used are listed below:
Grading Mean Median First
High Quality3.6 &
above 4 & 5 4 & 5 80 & above
Acceptable 2.6-3.63 3 60-80
than 2.61 & 2 1 & 2 Less than 60
Pooled analysi s
This university is at the formative stage of academic
accreditation by NCAAA. As such, each of the 20 items
related to each program is considered equally important.
The diagram shows pooled results at program level, the
distribution of total items in relation to the levels of per-
formance considered as mean, median, first quartile and
cumulative %.
3. Results
The item by item analytical results of SES for the col-
leges of dentistry and nursing are listed in table1. Po oled
results at program level are depicted in Figure 1. The
related observations are descri bed in successive sections.
3.1. College of Dentistry
The students in this college, regardless of grading crite-
rion used did not report “high quality” perception in any
of the 20 items (Table 1). When mean grading criterion
lone was considered, “acceptable” rating was observed a
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
On the Contribution of Student Experience Survey Regarding Quality Management in Higher
Education: An Institutional Study in Saudi Arabia
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
Table 1. Results of students experience survey.
Students Experience Survey of
College of Dentistry College of Nursing
Mean Median
First Quar-
tile Cum. % Mean Median First
Quartile Cum. %
1 2.6 3 2 5.0 3.2 3 3 41.0
2 2.7 3 2 25.0 3.1 3 3 35.4
3 2.1 2 2 0.0 3.2 3 3 43.4
4 2.4 3 2 5.3 3.2 3 3 38.6
5 3.4 3 3 45.0 2.9 3 2 31.3
6 2.2 2 2 0.0 3.1 3 3 31.3
7 2.5 3 1 25.0 3.0 3 2 27.7
8 1.9 2 1 10.0 2.9 3 2 27.7
9 1.7 1 1 0.0 2.9 3 2 36.1
10 1.7 2 1 0.0 2.5 3 1 24.1
11 2.7 3 2 16.7 3.3 3 3 40.2
12 2.6 3 2 15.0 3.2 3 3 36.1
13 2.1 2 2 0.0 3.0 3 3 25.3
14 2.5 3 2 10.0 3.2 3 3 32.5
15 3.2 3 3 30.0 3.2 3 3 41.0
16 3.0 3 3 20.0 3.2 3 3 42.2
17 2.6 3 2 5.0 3.3 3 3 41.0
18 2.9 3 2 25.0 3.4 3 3 49.4
19 3.2 3 3 40.0 3.3 3 3 48.2
20 2.1 2 1 0.0 3.3 3 3 45.7
(a) College of dentistry (b) College of nursing
Figure1. Pooled SES results.
in 10/20 items. They were availability of pre-enrollment
information about the university and the college; the ori-
entation program for new students; classroom quality;
facilities for religious observances; progressive involve-
ment of faculty; quality of study programs regarding
group activities, confidence building, communication
skills, further learning and future career.
Students’ rating of “improvement required” emerged
On the Contribution of Student Experience Survey Regarding Quality Management in Higher 467
Education: An Institutional Study in Saudi Arabia
for the remaining 10/20 items. They were students’
counseling services; course enrollments procedure;
computing; the library (staff, available materials and
convenient opening hours); facilities for extracurricular
activities; fair attitude of faculty; encouraging investiga-
tive and expressive ability of courses and assignments;
and, overall satisfaction in the program.
To look for more objectivity in observations and their
implications, as pointed out earlier, we explored the me-
dian grading criterio n. Although it may not be true ev ery
time, apart from 3/20 items, the earlier observations re-
main unchanged. The students’ rating now changed from
“improvement required” to “acceptable” in respect to
course enrollments; library staff; encouraging investiga-
tive and expressive ability of courses and assignments.
Thus, now 65% of items recorded acceptable rating
(Figure 1(a)). This may be attributed to possible under-
estimation by the ‘mean’ and consequently related satis-
faction grading.
When we raised the bar to capture at least 75% of stu-
dents being satisfied, this lowered the proportion of sat-
isfaction level for most of the items. There were 4/13
exceptions; they recorded acceptable response. These
four items were attractiveness and comfort of classrooms;
increase in investigative confidence; communicating
findings; and learning to work in gro up activities.
A higher still movement of students’ satisfaction from
75% to 80%, pushed down the satisfaction level in all th e
four “acceptable” items to “improvement required”. To
achieve this enhanced target, all 20 items need further
improvement. This demands focus by the college and
university administrators.
3.2. College of Nursing
Among students of this college also, regardless of the
criterion employed to grade students’ perception, high
quality satisfaction did not emerge for any of the 20
items (Table 1). When “mean” grading was used, the
students rated all 20 items as “acceptable”. Their rating
remained the same, by coincidence, with median grading
criterion (Figure 1(b)).
A higher movement of students’ satisfaction from 50%
to 75%, altered their rating from “acceptable” to “im-
provement required” for 5/20 items. The five are attract-
tiveness and comfort of classrooms; the library (staff,
available materials and opening hours); and facilities for
extracurricular activities.
Again, a higher movement of the students’ satisfaction
from75% to 80%, changed their rating for the remaining
16/20 items also from “acceptable” to “improvement
required”. Again, to achieve this enhanced target in this
college also, all 20 items need further improvement and
require focus by the college and university administra-
4. Summary and Conclusions
The knowledge about the learning environment of both
colleges and university might be helpful in making mea-
ningful inferences from SES results as well as their im-
plications. It is known that, environmental comparative
observations have added merit in providing insight and
useful clues for policy planners. Hence, they are briefly
described below.
4.1. Environments of Colleges
The College of Nursing was established on 8 June 2002.
It is for exclusively female students. Its academic pro-
gram, “BSc Nursing”, began from 2002. Developmental
activities progressed at a comparatively fast pace. They
were completed in optimum time.
Six months after the Nursing College, the Dentistry
College was also established on 14 December 2002. In
direct contrast with the Nursing College, it admits only
male students. Its academic program, “Bachelor of Den-
tal Surgery”, also began in the year 2002. The general
perception has been that developmental tasks in this col-
lege move at a comparatively slower pace.
In summary, these two colleges sub-serve two differ-
ent learning environments. In these circumstances, com-
parison of their SES results is best avoided. But, while
doing so, this article aimed to highlight the need of pro-
gram as well as college specific improvement plan.
4.2. Environmental Comparison
In both the colleges (dentistry as well as nursing), re-
gardless of grading criterion (Table 1), students did not
report high quality perception for any of the 20 items in
SES questionnaire. To my surprise, in none of these two
colleges, until now even 50% students do not agree to
any of these items. With a target of 50% satisfaction
among the students, in the college of dentistry, only 65%
(13/20) of the items could emerge with “acceptable”
perception. On the other hand, in the college nursing, all
the items (100%) hold this related perception. With an
increase in target from 50% to 75% satisfaction among
the students, in college of dentistry, only 20% (4/20)
items retained “acceptable” perception where as remain-
ing went down to “improvement required”. On the other
hand, in the college of nursing, 75% (15/20) of the items
still retained the perception “acceptable”. With a further
increase in target from 75% to 80% satisfaction among
the related students, all the ite ms (100%) in both the col-
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JSSM
On the Contribution of Student Experience Survey Regarding Quality Management in Higher
468 Education: An Institutional Study in Saudi Arabia
leges go down to the perception level “improvement re-
Both the college s need quality improvements in all the
areas, namely, access to pre-enrollment information, ori-
entation week for n ew students, studen t administration &
support services, facilities and equipments, learning re-
sources, and learning & teaching. However, keeping in
view of the comparative observations described earlier,
desired pace of improvements in college of dentistry has
to be faster than that in college of nursing. It is more so,
especially when target is to achieve high quality percep-
tion of students for each item under every program of a
university. We may thus easily conclude that each col-
lege in a university needs environmental specific devel-
opmental activities regarding quality in higher education.
4.3. Limitations
The coverage of this study was limited to only two col-
leges of this university representing two different envi-
ronments. Further, number of students in college of den-
tistry is almost one fourth of those in college of nursing.
These points warrant to take precaution while generaliz-
ing the results.
4.4. Future Research
Each college has its own story about establishment, pro-
gram, starting first academic session, course curriculum,
teaching methods and other aspects. Accordingly each
college constitutes a differen t environ ment. This su ggests
the need of carrying out evaluation studies in each col-
lege. It becomes more essential when the colleges are in
early phase of developments. The clues from feedback of
students help in a long way regarding development of
high quality higher education and its sustainability.
5. Acknowledgements
The author is thankful to Professor Lade Wosornu and Dr.
Sada Nand Dwivedi; Deanship of Quality and Academic
Accreditation, University of Dammam, Dammam, Saudi
Arabia, for their help in completion of this article. He is
equally thankful to Dr. Fahad A. Al-Harbi, Dean, Col-
lege of Dentistry; Dr. Sarfaraz Akhtar, Asst. Medical
Director & Quality Management Officer, College of
Dentistry; Prof. Mohammed Hegazy, Dean, College of
Nursing; Dr. Fatma Mokabel, Secretary, Principle Com-
mittee, College of Nursing; and Dr. Sana Al Mahmoud,
Head, Q & P Unit, College of Nursing, for their help &
cooperation regarding related surveys. Also, editor’s/
reviewers’ suggestions are duly acknowledged that fur-
ther added clarity in co ntents of the article. He thank s Mr.
R. Somasundaram and Mr. C. C. L. Raymond for data
collection and Mr. Royes Joseph for the active involve-
ment in the analysis. He thanks all students for their ma-
ture, balanced and objective response.
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Appendix 1: Students experience survey questionnaire
1) It was easy to find information about UoD and its
Colleges before I enrolled here for the first time.
2) When I first started at UoD, the orientation week for
new students was helpful for me.
3) There is sufficient opportunity at UoD, to get advice
on my studies and my future career.
4) Procedures for enrolling in courses are simple and
5) Classrooms (including lecture rooms, laboratories
etc.) are attractive and comfortable.
6) Student computing facilities are sufficient for my
7) The library staff is helpful to me when I need assis-
8) I am satisfied with the quality and extent of materi-
als available for me in the library.
9) The library is open at convenient times.
10) Adequate facilities are available for extracurricular
activities (including spo rting and recreational activi-
11) Adequate facilities are available at UoD for reli-
gious observances.
12) Most of the faculty with whom I work at UoD are
really interested in my progress.
13) Faculty at UoD are fair in their treatment of stu-
14) My courses and assignments encourage me to in-
vestigate new ideas and express my own opinions.
15) As a result of my studies my confidence in my abil-
ity to investigate and solve new and unusual prob-
lems is increasing.
16) My ability to effectively communicate the findings
of such investigations is improving as a result of my
17) My program of studies is stimulating my interest in
further learning.
18) The knowledge and skills I am learning will be
valuable for my future career.
19) I am learning to work effectively in group activities.
20) Overall, I am enjoying my life as a student at UoD.