Katic: The AMS Academic Experience Survey

With the Gage South, early exam databases, and a whole host of other matters, the AMS has taken firm positions, but not had firm quantitative data behind them. However, this week they released a broad-reaching survey that asked students about nearly every facet of life at UBC, and they found some striking results. If you’re interested in what students think about their experience here, I highly recommend you read the document in its entirety (.pdf). Below are some things that stood out to me.

My finances cause me stress or anxiety (page 19):

This question had a very strong result, with 66% of respondents supporting the statement. High levels of support were consistent across demographic categories, with 72.1% of graduate students in support.

Not particularly surprising, but it should be noted how conspicuously absent this issue within the AMS, Ubyssey, and pretty much everywhere you turn. It’s probably the most important issue, and each time students have been polled on tuition, students have expressed unequivocal opinions.


“There is an adequate amount of affordable student housing on campus.” (page 43).

Results for this question were one sided, with only 7% of respondents in support. 58% of respondents rejected the statement, with a large contingent strongly disagreeing. Non-BC domestic students (67.7%), international students (61.8%), and students living on campus (71.1%) recorded particularly high rejection of this statement. These results demonstrate student housing affordability is of major concern.

But this isn’t just about student’s balance sheets, it has very real effects on the UBC experience. For instance, on student involvement:

“I have attended a student club meeting or event in the past 12 months.” (page 61)

Graduate students, BC students and those commuting 31-60+ were least likely to have attended an event.

And on school spirit:

“I have a lot of school spirit.” (page 13)

There is a wide discrepancy between students living on campus or 0-30 minutes away, with those students recording approximately 50% support for the statement compared to 40% for 60+ minutes and 35% for 31-60 minutes.

And, perhaps worst of all, financial stress seems to contribute to the tremendous anxiety around graduation:
“Preparation for life after graduation [causes me stress]” (page 23).

71% of respondents supported this statement, with 61.7% support in 1st year and 81.9% support in 4th year. Those living 60+ minutes away and those in 4th year noted a greater strength of response than other demographics.

But finances and life after graduation aren’t the most stressful things for students (they are 3rd most and 2nd most stressful, respectively). The most stressful thing is course workload:
“My course workload [causes me stress]” (page 20).

Feedback on this question was entirely one sided, with 81% of respondents in support, and 35% in strong support. Those commuting 60+ hours expressed the greatest level of challenge, with 41.8% strongly agreeing. Otherwise results were consistent, with all demographics falling between 25% and 42% strongly agreeing, and total support was no less than 68% in any category.

Related, check out this shocking result:

“There are some courses in my major which seem designed to fail large numbers of students every year.” (page 30).

28% of respondents supported this statement, with minimal variation by academic year, excluding a low of 10.8% for graduate students. BC students recorded 29.4% support compared to 23.2% support for non-BC students. Faculty responses vary widely. Graduate and professional programs recorded low support while LFS, Applied Science, and Science recorded the highest support, ranging between 32.8% and 44.6%.

According to the survey, one thing can very much relieve some of this academic stress:

“Access to old exams in my 1st or 2nd year would have decreased my stress or anxiety level surrounding exams.” (page 48)

71% of respondents supported this statement, while 8% rejected it. Support was relatively intense, with 34% strongly agreeing with the statement. Support was consistently high across all years, international status, and commute times. BC students (72.9%), 1st years (74.3%), and 2nd years (77.9%) recorded the highest support.

There are a few conclusions we can make here. For one, students are incredibly stressed about their classes. They are clamoring for access to past exams, and they have cynical views of their professors (as evidenced by the ‘designed to fail’ question). I am afraid if they aren’t given access to their past exams, this cynicism will intensify. Many students, informally, have told me that they thought a professor was testing something we haven’t been taught because it would be an easy way to bring down the inflated class average.

These academic stresses are compounded for commuters, but students don’t have access to adequate housing options. Those commuters are also less likely to become involved, and more feel disconnected from their campus community.

Students are also stressed about their current finances (which is related to the housing question), and more stressed about their future finances. Those stresses are compounded for people in faculties where future job prospectus are uncertain.

What should happen? For one, adequate housing would drastically reduce class stress (as evidenced by the lower rate of stress for those who live on or close to campus), and financial stress, if it were affordable. Better counseling could alleviate the post-grad stress, and better access to resources like old exams could alleviate class stress.

Students still give UBC a favorable rating when you ask it bluntly, but when you break down the student experience into more specific questions, things change. For instance, look at this cynicism about the university:

“Campus is mainly being developed with students needs in mind.”

32% of respondents supported this statement, with 31% rejecting it. Support declines and rejection increases significantly as year level increases, with rejection shifting from 19.9% of 1st year students to 38.2% of 4th years and 41.1% of 5+years. Rejection is greatest amongst those commuting 0-30 minutes or living on campus. Antipathy appears to coincide with demographics likely to have the greatest familiarity with campus. (emphasis mine)

Go back and re-read that shocking bold text. Yes, the closer you are to campus the more cynical you become about it. It’s not the disconnected commuter who has doubts about his university, but the uber-involved student living on campus.

Things are still good for UBC students, but there are some very serious issues causing stress and anxiety. If real action isn’t taken on these vital issues, cynicism will pervade. It may seem fine for UBC–if students keep paying, that’s fine–but what happens 20 years from now when this crop of cynical alumni is being called for donations?

Gordon Katic (@gordonkatic) has been student coordinator for the Terry Project for over two years, and in that time started BARtalk, and the Terry Project on CiTR 101.9FM. A former Ubyssey columnist, and now a student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, Gordon is trying to use journalism to tell important stories about global issues.

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Gordon Katic (@gordonkatic) has been student coordinator for the Terry Project for over two years, and in that time started BARtalk, and the Terry Project on CiTR 101.9FM. A former Ubyssey columnist, and now a student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, Gordon is trying to use journalism to tell important stories about global issues.