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What is student engagement?

Student engagement can be defined as what students do (the extent to which students engage in educationally purposeful activities), and what institutions do (the extent to which institutions create environments that enable students’ engagement in effective educational activities).

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) was developed at Indiana University, partly in reaction to inaccurate measures of 'quality' used by the media in the United States to rank higher-education institutions. The survey and those following the original survey – the Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE) and the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) – are based on a culmination of research over time identifying which behaviours are conducive to student success. 

In 2006, the division of Student Development and Success (now incorporated in the Centre for Teaching and Learning, or CTL) at the University of the Free State requested permission from the NSSE Institute to adapt the survey for use in the South African context. The first version of the South African Survey of Student Engagement (SASSE) was piloted in 2007. A revised edition of SASSE was rolled out in 2013, and in 2017 the SASSE was piloted in Namibia as the Southern African Survey of Student Engagement. Adaptations of the BCSSE and FSSE resulted in the Beginning University Survey of Student Engagement (BUSSE) and the Lecturer Survey of Student Engagement (LSSE) respectively.


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