Students are valuable national assets of every society, who are the link between present and future of every nation and also a symbol of every social class that are present in a country. It can be said that the driving force behind the development of any nation are the young people and elite of that nation. One of the essential roles of the university is adapting youth to the environment and training people to build up skills and expertise in accordance with the needs of society. (1)
Students are worthy national resources that like any human have social and cultural needs and because of their special situational and educational circumstances their needs are unique. Up till now, these needs were somehow neglected (2). Surely in this modern world of information and communication, identifying the needs and problems of youth in college and planning to solve them and incrementing their mental health and vitality in the University can lead these national assets to greater success (3). If the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes required for students are not considered, educational programming will fail.
Human social development depends on awareness and recognition of human society, whose role today is far greater. It also requires coordination of the planners and scholars of each country with the needs of that community (4). Educational needs in terms of functionality of graduates' knowledge after entering the labor market are among the most important needs on various educational levels. Understanding the cultural needs and students' expectations of leisure is also important in educational planning. The necessity for recognizing religious beliefs as an important aspect of culture is so important that according to Max Weber, one who does not recognize the religious phenomenon is condemned to misapprehend the concept of culture (5). According to the classifications, the Guild needs of students are among the basic and lower ranking needs. Authorities implement all in their power for fulfilling the basic needs of students in order to reach scientific development which is the ultimate goal (1).
One of the main tasks of universities is to determine students' needs, prioritize them and plan effectively in order to provide better educational, cultural and social services to attain the next generation with a proper manner. Identifying students' needs help organizers and decision-makers to plan better and according to the needs of their students.
The most important needs of university students are educational, cultural and social needs and priorities. So the aim of this study was to investigate different needs of medical students in the fields of education, culture (Religion, literary-artistic and guild) and socio-politics and prioritize them, which can lead university authorities plan better in order to provide better services.
Several studies have been conducted on need assessment. But most studies are related to the cultural needs of different communities and a few studies discussed need assessment related to social-politics, education, and guild. For example, the most similar study of our research is the one carried out on 400 university students in Mashhad in 2000 with the aim to recognize the cultural needs of students (6). In that study, the data were collected through a questionnaire, in which 89 cultural needs were examined. Among them academic needs, cultural and artistic needs, the need for political and religious awareness, need to respect, the need for freedom of speech and the press had higher priority. Therefore, in this study, we tried to evaluate cultural needs from the perspective of the literary-artistic, religious and guild in addition to socio-political and educational needs.
This cross-sectional study was a survey with quantitative approach. Based on Cochran's sampling formula, a sample size of 400 was obtained. In this study, 394 undergraduate medical students of the Mashhad Medical University were selected by a stratified sampling method based on their academic year. This means that every class of each semester was visited and all the available students consented to participate in the project were entered the study. The research tool is a self-made questionnaire. To compile this questionnaire, 5 main areas were identified in relation to educational, religious, literary-artistic, socio-political or guild needs of students. Finally, a questionnaire with 55 questions was prepared according to 5-point Likert-style.
Then validity and reliability of the questionnaire were assessed. To assess the validity, using content validity, opinion and comments of 10 specialists from the fields of psychology, social sciences and medicine were applied to refine the questionnaire. After finalizing the questionnaire, to assess the reliability, the project was conducted on 30 students for pilot testing in order to measure the reliability coefficient of various areas of research by Cronbach's alpha. In this context appropriate figures were obtained which shows that the reliability of the questionnaire is favorable (Table 1).
Table 1: The reliability coefficient of research areas
The final form of the questionnaire consists of 15 questions in the field of Literary- Artistic programs, 15 questions in the field of religious programs, 9 questions in the area of socio-political concerns, 8 questions about educational issues and 8 questions about Guild affairs. Some issues related to different aspects that are addressed in the questionnaire are listed below:
The final form of questionnaire was given to each medical student and data was collected. Then the data were analyzed by SPSS software version 18. Data analysis was performed using descriptive statistics and indicators, including frequency, percentage, mean, variance, standard deviation, etc.
Among 394 respondents, 42.4% were male and 57.6% were female. Respondents' age was from 19 years to 34 years with an average of 23.7 years. 54.1% of students were indigenous and 45.9% were non-indigenous.
Table 2: Demographic characteristics of the participants
According to classifying different students' needs into areas of education, literary-artistic, religious, Socio-political and guild, description of student responses is as follows:
In educational needs of medical students, the mean points of all being above 4 (out of 5) show that educational needs of students are at a very high level. Within this category, demand for having English language training courses with the highest mean (4.75 out of 5 points) is placed on top of all the educational needs. In second place is various software training courses. The lowest of all educational needs is the demand for having summer semester.
Based on the obtained mean points, the highest literary-artistic need of students belongs to pop music performances (mean 4.35 out of 5). And then in order of priority are holding students' film and theater festivals, traditional Iranian music concert, music training associations and acquaintance with culture and art of different ethnicities and nations. These indicate a strong tendency of students to the mentioned issues. In the field of literary-artistic needs, only one case of felt needs was below average and that was the review and critique sessions of contemporary poets.
Among the different religious needs of students, the highest mean point (4.09 out of 5) is related to the religious celebrations and festivals. Second and third demands in this category belong to holding a series of orientation sessions with live religions of the world and holding a debate between religious intellectuals and scholars. The lowest means are related to holding acoustic and the tone of the Quran training courses and mourning ceremonies which shows that students has no incentive for the necessity of holding these events.
In all cases relating to the socio-political, needs, the needs of students are higher than average (according to the range of 1 to 5). Stations for Newspaper Reading and holding a free, open political tribune for students were the most essential needs that students have pointed out. Yet holding review sessions about the foundations of the political system of Islam is less attractive for students.
The means of all items in the students' guild needs were higher than 4. Meanwhile the highest means we're related to the preparation and distribution of Book coupon with an average of 4.75 (out of 5) and then to set up the student marketplace. Subsequently, a need that has sparked less among students was to establish student matrimony that although the mean is noteworthy, but nevertheless among other options it is the lowest.
Figure 1: A comparison of students' needs in general categories
The graph above shows the necessity of students' needs in different categories. It is obvious in the bar chart that educational needs have the highest mean of all and in fact they are the main student demands which allocate the figure of 87.5 (out of 100). After the educational needs, guild needs, literary-artistic needs and socio-political needs are the next important priorities. Finally, based on the responses of students, religious needs are the last priority that students felt needed.
Discussion and Conclusion
One of the most important tasks of universities with the goal of human development is to identify and prioritize the needs of their students and to provide them with proper facilities so that the next generation would appropriately flourish.
Assessing the needs of the medical students indicated that educational needs are placed at the top of all students' needs. Among educational needs, the need for English courses at university is in the first place. Due to the importance of knowledge of foreign languages in education and career advancement, school authorities are expected to plan and provide grounds for foreign language training classes. The need for educational software training classes and holding textbooks exhibitions were other medical students' educational demands that are placed on the next agendas.
In the field of guild needs, students' demands are very high. Distribution of Book coupon is at the top of the guild needs. This indicates that the main concerns of medical students are towards scientific topics and medical students have shown their willingness to address scientific issues. The establishment of various student marketplaces was among the students' needs, which seems that with a certain plan these marketplaces can be set up.
By giving the top priority to pop music performances among all the literary-artistic needs, students remind authorities the necessity for a little joy. After that student theater and drama performances at the university was a second priority that students demand for holding.
In the field of social-political, needs of students, two issues had the highest priority: Setting up newspaper-reading stations in schools and establishing a free open political tribune for students. Medical students' need to be informed about Iran and the world's affairs are issues that are worthy of faculty authorities' effort to promote. Since medical students are important segments of society and future models for the community, their understanding of the social-political issues of Iran and the world is crucial.
Compared to other students' needs, religious needs had the least priority of all. However, in this regard, students' demand represents the necessity for some vitality and joy of the faculty and students as well since the celebration of religious feasts was placed on top of religious needs of students. After that, comes holding a series of orientation sessions with major religions as well as holding a debate among religious intellectuals and scholars which indicate the students' need to some knowledge and awareness in these fields.
In a study conducted by Ferdowsi University of Mashhad in 2000, needs had the following order of priority: Scientific and educational needs, cultural and artistic needs, and the need for political and religious awareness; which is consistent with the results of our research. (6)
In relation to religious needs and beliefs, the present study matches with the research done by Mirzaee (7) in 2002 in Tabriz. According to the survey results in Figure 1, despite the persistence of religious beliefs in the academic community, religious needs have a lower priority relative to other needs. According to Mirzaee's quote this shows that new religious thinking can grow in students. A Ghasemnejad study in 2009 (8) showed that Mazandarani youth has little interest in national religious events which may partly confirm the priority level of religious needs in our study. Hamidi in 2005 (9) found out that educational, cultural and social needs are the basic needs of adolescents in deprived areas that comply with the achievements of our research.
The results of Esmaeili and Rabiei study in 2008 (10) show that social needs have higher priority than cultural needs while in our study social needs had a lower priority. However, their study was conducted on female adolescent students and our study has been done on male and female university students. That's why this different result may be due to different age or gender conditions.
According to Frost study in 2002 (3), the priority of the majority of students in America was social and recreational needs, while in the current study the highest priority has been educational and guild needs.
In Edwards and Ran research in 2006 (11) as well as Bartram study in 2007 (12) that were carried out on foreign students in the UK, most needs of these students accrued to social and communication skills and teamwork. However, in our study, educational, guild and literary-artistic needs rank higher than social needs.
Zhang research in China in 2013 (13) showed that among social needs, the ability to communicate and finding jobs were a priority. Whereas in our study social needs were investigated from the political point of view, among which establishment of newspaper-reading stations and free political Tribune had the priority.