This is a guide to help higher education providers to use our interview tool for financial support evaluation.
What is the interview tool?
The interview tool is a framework to guide semi-structured, face-to-face interviews. These are designed to facilitate a more in-depth understanding of the effectiveness of financial support packages from the perspective of students while they are studying.
The interview questions were piloted and cognitively tested to improve validity during the research project led by Sheffield Hallam University.
The interviews will help provide rich data to understand how and why financial support affects academic, personal and social outcomes, alongside your students’ perception of effectiveness.
The interview framework covers the following thematic areas:
- knowledge about eligibility
- mode of payment
- awareness of other schemes at other institutions
- role of the financial support in choice of institution
- what the money has been used for
- importance of financial support in remaining at university
- the mixture of different financial support package elements (e.g. discount vouchers, cash bursaries or varying combinations)
- preferred/optimum timing of any payments (e.g. in-year and throughout degree).
The interviews should be conducted alongside the survey and statistical tool to provide a range of data which will support a robust and effective approach to evaluation.
When is the right time to do the interviews?
It is up to you when you choose to do the interviews.
The institutions involved in the pilot research chose a time between November and December, when students may more easily recall their experiences in the previous academic year. This also avoids a clash with the National Student Survey (which normally happens during the second semester, January to April).
The interviews are most useful to take place after you have conducted the statistical analysis and survey and analysed your findings from these.
This enables you to follow up in more depth to understand particular questions arising from the survey and statistical analysis findings – for example, why particular packages are less effective at improving outcomes, or whether the amount of financial support is sufficient.
To avoid unnecessary questions, you can (with the individual interviewee’s consent) also use the data already captured from the survey.
What you will need:
- Interviewers experienced with semi-structured interviewing
- Ethical clearance or advice in line with your own institution’s policies (a sample statement is included with the interview framework)
- Resources to record and transcribe interviews
- Qualitative analysis skills/resources (e.g. via the NVIVO or MAXQDA software packages).
How long will it take?
The interviews themselves will typically take around 45 minutes with each respondent. The transcribing and analysis process depends on how many interviews and your analysis approach.
You will also need to allow time with different stakeholders to interpret your findings, then decide if and how to make changes in response to what you have learned.
Respondents can be identified via the final question of the survey (“Are you willing to be contacted for further exploration of these questions?”). Alternatively, you can identify representative cohort(s) of recipients from your student data records.
How to conduct the interviews
We recommend that you work with experienced interviewers to conduct the interviews, and you may find people with this experience within your institution. The interview framework is a guide to conducting these semi-structured interviews.
Analysing interview data
We recommend that you draw on experienced qualitative research expertise, which you may find in your institution, to analyse your interview data, as this will require someone trained in qualitative research analysis.
Interpreting your results – what does it mean?
Your analysis and interpretation may also provide insight into any questions arising from the statistical analysis and survey findings if these are available.
Find out more about how you might interpret your findings and plan your next steps