Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 18 June, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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Total student experience

core definition

Total student experience refers to all aspects of the engagement of students with higher education.

explanatory context


analytical review

The term was coined by Harvey in 1992, in a report of the same name. The term was meant as an antidote to what at the time were widespread references to total quality management.

This initial report, based on the ratings given by over 4000 respondents to individual criteria suggests that the key factor in the assessment of quality in higher education is the student experience. This is not restricted to the student experience in the classroom but to the total student experience. (Harvey et al., 1992, p. 1) 

It has been used widely since. For example, Purdue University (2011) refer to the ‘Pillars Supporting the Total Student Experience’ and Danedri Thompson (2000) writing in the Kansas State eCollegian stated:

The total student experience encompasses teaching and learning, curriculum, student life, advising and mentoring/

The University of Edinburgh (2004) also refers to a wide set of student experiences:

achievements are derived from the total student experience while in HE – whether academic, extra curricular or work experiences

City University, Hong Kong (1999) noted:

Evaluation of what is becoming universally known as the "total student experience" is one of the dominant themes of higher education research at this time. This term embraces the notion that learning does not only take place in the classroom and that students' time spent in higher education is about a whole range of experiences.

The University goes on to flag up its On-line Student Experience Survey, in which students are asked about their 'total student experience' as all aspects of students' university experience have an impact on their learning experience. (City University, 2002)

Napier University also link it to student feedback:

The Student Satisfaction survey is different in that its measuring a range of issues relating to the total student experience where a large group of students are also given the opportunity to comment honestly (and anonymously) on the best and worst aspects of their experiences. (Davies, 2003)

As do RMIT (2004):

This policy is intended to support continual improvement of the total student experience at RMIT.


A point picked up at the (then) newly formed London Metropolitan University:

More recently however the focus has shifted to the evaluation of the total student experience, which would include issues such as the facilities available within the institution, relationships with the academic staff and fellow students, and attitudes towards the teaching style offered by lecturers and tutors. Increasingly, students’ attitudes and perceptions towards the institution as a whole are seen as central issues in determining the total student experience. (Savani, 2003)


Craig McGinnis, from Melbourne Australia (2003) recently talked of policy being linked to total student experience:

Revise policy to impact on engagement — addressing the quality of the total student experience for all students, not merely the quality of instruction. This means bridging the gaps between academic, administrative and support programs — a substantial challenge for many universities

A Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE, 2003) report on catering also notes:

Catering plays an important part in the provision of the total student experience and should therefore feature in the institution's overall plan.


An alternative direction links total student experience to virtual learning:

The Total Student Experience offers a conceptual framework for the discussion, delivery and measure of an online educational system from the student's perspective. It suggests a model with four distinct layers, which individually and collectively, effect the learner's overall satisfaction with the system. The four layers are: presentation, function, education and administration. (McKey, 1999)

associated issues

One area where the student experience has been extnsively researched is the first year of university, see for example, the comprehensive review by Harvey et al. (2006)  

related areas

See also

student experience


City University, Hong Kong, 1999, ‘What is "Total Student Experience"?’, not available 26 January 2012.

City University, Hong Kong, 2002, ‘On-line Student Experience Survey’, not available 26 January 2012.

Davies, G., 2003, Student Satisfaction Surveys: Their Uses in Measuring Student Engagement, Quality Enhancement Services, Napier University, june2003/papers/davies.docl, not available 26 January 2012.

Harvey, L and Drew, S. with Smith, M., 2006, The first-year experience: a review of literature for the Higher Education Academy. York, HEA, October 2006, available here.

Harvey, L., Burrows, A. and Green, D., 1992, Total Student Experience: A First Report of the QHE National Survey of Staff and Students' Views of the Important Criteria of Quality. Birmingham, UCE, QHE, available here.

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), 2003, Catering Management in Higher Education: National Report, for the UK Value for Money Steering Group, Report 2003/31, executive summary, , accessed 27 January 2012, still available 11 January 2017.

McInnis, C., New Realities of the Student Experience: How should universities respond? Keynote at 25th Annual Forum, European Association for Institutional Research, Limerick, 24–27 August 2003.

McKey, P.,1999, ‘The Total Student Experience’ keynote presentation at ASCILITE 99, Queensland University of Technology, Australia, December 6-8, 1999., not available 26 January 2012.

Purdue University, 2011, Pillars Supporting the Total Student Experience,, accessed 10 September 2012, page not available 11 January 2017.

RMIT, 2004, Student Feedback Policy, not available 27 January 2012.

Savani, S., 2003, ‘Enablers of student satisfaction in higher education: the case of business studies students at London Guildhall University’ London Metropolitan University,, not available 27 January 2012.

Thompson, D., 2000,  K-State group works to create new multicultural curriculumKansas State eCollegian, 25 April,  2000.

University of Edinburgh, 2004, ‘Briefing on Employability and Progress Files/Personal Development Planning’ Transferable and Generic Research Skills Training Implementation Steering Group 19th May 2004,, accessed 10 September 2012, page not available 11 January 2017 .

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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