Study finds more than half of university students feel they need better basic skills to succeed – including those in Waterloo

Thursday, April 25, 2019

After surveying over 2000 post-secondary students, researchers from four Canadian universities found that more than half of the students feel that they lack competence in the basic skills needed to succeed at university. Areas of perceived deficiency included writing, test taking, analysis, time and group management, research, presentation and numeracy skills.No causal link was found between family background, being a first-generation university student, or being an international student and skill deficiency. Surprisingly, many students who were identified as having limited skills had received excellent grades in high school. The study also found that the skill gap did not improve with time spent in university – the percentages of students who had low skill levels were about the same in all year-levels of students surveyed.

Renison University College Associate Professor Sharon E. Roberts was one of the researchers on the study. She was motivated to pursue this research because of her own experiences with struggling students. “As an educator in a classroom, each year I witness new cohorts of students struggling through university,” commented Roberts. “As a researcher, and with this report, I now know the degree to which the students feel the same way.”

Roberts suggests that the study is an important step forward and can be used as a foundation to create additional support for students. Simply put, Roberts stated “These preliminary findings confirm that a significant proportion of our undergraduate students face challenges related to fundamental academic competency skills at all levels of undergraduate study. Our findings suggest that many students need extensive supports in place before and after they enter university.”

For more details about the study and for the full media release, read more HERE.

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