National Survey of Student Engagement

What is NSSE?

NSSE stands for the National Survey of Student Engagement. It is widely recognized as a pre-eminent tool for collecting information about undergraduate academic quality.

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) measures undergraduate student engagement: the extent to which students participate in educationally purposeful activities, how much time and effort they invest in their studies and how well their university facilitates such involvement. It surveys only students in their first year for study and in their fourth and graduating year of study. At York, it excludes Education and Law.

The University of Indiana administers NSSE across North American, including adapted versions in English and French for Canada. In 2014, 716 institutions across North America participated, including 72 across Canada and every university in Ontario. One of the features of NSSE is that each institution can benchmark itself against sets of peer institutions to find aspects of the student experience it is relatively strong in an need to maintain, and is relatively weak in and need to improve.

Prior to 2014, response rates at York were typically well under the Ontario sector average: too low to make valid inferences at the Faculty level or lower. In 2014, that situation changed. A massive campaign involving Faculties, colleges, administrators, students and retailers led to increasing the response rate from 16.5% in 2011 to 27.8% in 2014. The campaign was so successful that NSSE reporters wrote an article on it for their Using Data to Catalyze Change on Campus publication. The higher response rate meant that findings could be socialized more widely across the institutions and these findings have since inspired or informed many improvements to student educational experience.

The NSSE Snapshot report provides, for each year level, a broad overview of York’s strengths and challenges via Engagement Indicators. These represent key dimensions of engagement summarized from clusters of questions and are represented in ten indicators organized into four themes. It also gives the questions York scores highest and lowest on, relative to the rest of Ontario, and how students assess their experience.

One thing to consider when interpreting the results is that no two institutions are alike, nor is York like the aggregate of its peers. Most York students attend a very large, urban, commuter campus in north Toronto with very high proportion of enrolments in social sciences and humanities. York also includes Glendon College with a similar mix and commuter status, but on a small, bilingual, campus in central Toronto. Results for York in general do not necessarily reflect the results for its components and the differences between York as an institution vs. other institutions may be partially attributable to differences in program mix, demographics, size, location and mix of residential vs. commuter students.