Are more able students in higher education less easy to satisfy?

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Student satisfaction gains an increasingly central position in the context of quality measurements. However, student satisfaction can also be stipulated as an important motivational factor for students as learners. This study combines this perspective on student satisfaction with the notion of differences in students’ ability. We hypothesize that differences in ability result in differences in student satisfaction. In line with concepts of high ability education, it is additionally hypothesized that this relation is mediated by educational stimulation—divided in cognitive, creative and professional stimulation—as well as by participation in honour programmes. A structural equation modelling (N = 733) of factors affecting student satisfaction in higher education shows that cognitive, creative and professional stimulation are the largest influencers of bachelor students’ sense of satisfaction. The interrelation between these three aspects of educational stimulation also shows the complexity of higher educational practice, since it suggests that cognitive stimulation cannot be realized without a creative factor, and vice versa. Professional stimulation needs both. Furthermore, the results show that educational stimulation mediates the effect of students’ ability on their educational satisfaction. This implies that changes in education can indeed influence students’ educational satisfaction, especially by providing educational quality. Finally, considering students’ ability level, it is shown that especially cognitively abler students are less easy to satisfy. The combination of educational stimulation and ability suggests that especially the more cognitively able students do not feel themselves sufficiently cognitively or creatively stimulated, and hence are less satisfied in vocational higher education.




Griffioen, D. M. E., Doppenberg, J. J., & Oostdam, R. J. (2018). Are more able students in higher education less easy to satisfy? Higher Education, 75(5), 891–907.

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