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National Survey of Third Level Students...

Wednesday 20th February, 2013: In 2012 Suas commissioned the first survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 third level students to explore their attitudes, knowledge, understanding, activism and learning on global development with a view to ensuring that education providers...

Wednesday 20th February, 2013: 

Key Findings

The questionnaire included roughly 30 questions to explore the following areas: general awareness and understanding of development issues; attitudes towards development issues including how they are being addressed; students perspective on their own role and confidence; learning about development issues; familiarity with Suas, Irish Aid and other development organisations.

A number of questions were included at the start of the final questionnaire to enable us to identify any marked differences between students on the basis of gender, age, socio-economic group, region of study and institution type (University or Institute of Technology).

Two specific questions were included in the questionnaire to enable us to identify any marked differences between students on the basis of participation in development education courses/programmes and/or volunteering activities.

Some of the key findings are as follows:

Almost 3 in 4 (73%) students are concerned about poverty and inequality in the world today and 85% think it is important to take action on global development issues.

Only 13% of students ‘agree’ ‘the third world should deal with its own problems and not look to the first world for help’. However, there is divided opinion on the allocation of government resources- just under half of the student group (47%) think the government should focus on the economic difficulties in Ireland before addressing developing issues in other countries.

A large majority of students (78%) ‘agree’ that the action of individuals in the first world can have repercussions for the developing world, with 68% believing that these actions are partly responsible for problems in the developing world.

Students perceive that they have a role to play in addressing developing issues- 84% of students say ‘[they] want to bring about positive change’, and just 19% agreed with the statement 'making societies better is the responsibility of governmental agencies and/or NGOs, not mine'.

However, a clear finding of this survey is that student’s confidence in their ability to bring about change is low. Only 20% of students ‘agree’ that they are confident in their ability to influence decisions affecting other parts of the world- while only 35% of students ‘agree’ that they are confident to influence decisions affecting their local area.

Looking at different types of actions that they as individuals can take – volunteering, whether at home or abroad – is deemed to be the most effective action. Roughly 4 in every 5 students (81%) rate volunteering abroad as 'effective'. Just over 3 in every 4 students (77%) contend that working/volunteering in Ireland is 'effective'. Of the remaining actions, all were deemed ‘effective’ by roughly 60-70% of students except for ‘lobbying the Irish government’ and ‘attending public meetings /demonstrations’, which received ratings of 31% and 37% respectively.

Nevertheless, donating money is the action that most students are likely to take based on the experience of the last year- most students (64%) made one off donations to charity followed by 59% of students who informed themselves about development issues and 53% who made a lifestyle decision.
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From an education perspective it is encouraging that roughly two thirds of students (65%) say they want to learn more about development issues.

Please download the report to read the full set of results and the breakdown of results across various demographics (gender; age; socio-economic group; region of study; and institution type) and the results for students who have volunteered or participated in development courses. 

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