Student Activity and Sports Study Ireland (SASSI), 2014-2015 

Study number (SN): 0054-00


Student Sport Ireland (2014). Student Activity and Sports Study Ireland (SASSI) [data collection]. Version 1. Dublin: Irish Social Science Data Archive SN: 0054-00



Student Sport Ireland LogoThe Student Activity and Sport Study Ireland (SASSI) research was commissioned by Student Sport Ireland (SSI) to investigate sport and physical activity participation, preferences and provision in third-level colleges on the island of Ireland. Colleges have invested significantly in sports provision over the past 20 years and the sector has considerable potential to impact on physical activity and health at an institutional and wider community level.

However, there was a lack of information available about the participation levels of students as they progress through college and the factors within the college environment which impact on participation. Given the number of young adults progressing to third-level education, the potential of these colleges to influence participation in physical activity is vast.

The study was undertaken in 2014 - 2015 with the report being drafted and finalised during 2015 - 2016. A representative sample of 9,000 students from 31 colleges participated in an online survey administered during class time. The survey included self-reported participation in sport and domain specific physical activity within and outside the college, and the determinants, motivators and barriers to participation and a number of health-related behaviours and outcomes.

The research was supported by SSI, the colleges themselves, Sport Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland. It was overseen by a group comprising representatives of these bodies. It was delivered by a consortium of researchers from Dublin City University, Ulster University, University of Limerick, Waterford Institute of Technology and University of Wolverhampton assisted by key individuals within each college which took part.


  • Health
  • Physical activities
  • Sport
  • Students (College)



Undergraduate and Postgraduate third level students across the island of Ireland

Observation units


Temporal coverage

From 10/2014 to 01/2015

Time dimension

Cross-sectional one-time study

Geographical coverage

  • Northern Ireland
  • Republic of Ireland

Methods of data collection

CASI (Computer Assisted Self Interviewing). Survey Monkey etc.

Sampling procedures

Based on a pre-defined sampling frame or frames from which the sample was drawn.  This would include a census where you studied everyone in the population/sampling frame: Random, meaning that at some or all stages of the sampling simple random sampling (or equivalent was employed).

Sampling was undertaken using student data for the academic year 2012 – 2013.  In order to achieve a nationally representative sample and also a meaningful sample from individual institutions, a total of 3.9% of the student population in large institutions (i.e. 15,000+ students; 7 institutions), 5% of the population in medium sized institutions (4000 – 15000 students; 12 institutions) and 6.1% of the population in smaller institutions (less than 4000 students; 13 institutions) was sought.

An All – Ireland representative sample, weighted to achieve a meaningful sample in smaller colleges was achieved by randomly selecting class groups from fields of study in each institution (n=32). These class groups were accessed by the SASSI champion. One institution did not adhere to the sampling protocol and was omitted from the dataset. This protocol resulted in high response rates, but biased the sample in favour of full - time undergraduate students. The sample was weighted to account for variations from national statistics.

The sampling procedure was undertaken independently at each of the 32 institutions who consented to participate in the survey. In each institution random sampling of student groups was undertaken in proportion to the numbers of students studying at each year of study within each broad ‘field of study’, as established by the HEA. When selected, the list of randomly selected class groups was given to the ‘SASSI champion’ in the institution who sought permission to access the group during college hours. Previous surveys conducted in Irish third level institutions have been unsuccessful in achieving high response rates (e.g. the HEA student satisfaction survey 2013 had a response rate of 10.9%). In order to maximise response, the online survey was administered to the entire class group (chosen using an online random number generator) in the appropriate year group and field of study during a timetabled hour.  Since it was difficult to access part time and distance learning students in this way, and since response rate via email introduces self-selection bias and has been previously proven to result in much lower response rates, these students were omitted from the sample.


In order to address the variance from national percentages cross the categories of gender, full time / part time studies, undergrad / postgrad studies and year of study described above, the data set was weighted following consultation with Student Sport Ireland.

Each survey respondent was assigned an adjustment weight.  Those under-represented got a weight larger than 1, and those in over-represented groups got a weight smaller than 1.  In all analysis of means, totals, percentages, etc, the weighted values were used.

Calculation of weights:

  • Step 1. SASSI figures were divided into the National Population figures for each element within each variable (e.g. Variable: Level of Study; Elements within: Undergrad/Postgrad)
  • Step 2. This calculation was divided by 1
  • Step 3. Using the calculation in Step 2 all elements within each variable were totalled to give a ‘total for each variable’
  • Step 4. Each variable element within Step 2 was divided by the ‘total for each variable’ to give the weight for each variable.

The first weighting of the dataset by gender was carried out using the variable “Weight_gender” as the weighting variable following which the data set matched the known student population sample by gender – 49.1% males and 50.9% females. It should be noted that this weighting process affected the age profile of the sample.

The SASSI sample had significantly higher proportions of younger respondents which are generally more highly active and play more sport than older groups. The sample was therefore re-weighted to align with the student population by age using variable “Weight_age”.

A new weighting variable “Weight_gender_by_age” was created by multiplying “Weight_gender” by “Weight_age”. An age and gender profile of the sample was run which showed that the sample was closely aligned by age with the overall student population but was slightly out in terms of gender – there were 49.7% males vs. 50.3% females.

The sample was thus re-weighted by “Weight2_gender” to re-align the overall proportions by gender. A final weighting variable “Weight_final” was created by multiplying “Weight_gender_by_age” by “Weight2_gender”.

Response rate

31 colleges participated in the student survey. Of these, 14 achieved 100% of their target quota (±10%), 12 did not reach within 10% of their target quota (10% - 80%), and five exceeded their target. Given that this was a survey on physical activity and sport, participants who did not complete the filter disability question (Q9 – Do you have a long – term illness, health problem or disability that limits your daily activities or work?) or those who did not complete any physical activity questions (Q11 onwards) were deemed non – responders and removed from further analysis. 9,197 survey responses were collected (87% of the target quota). Following removal of the non - responders, analysis was performed on 8,122 responses.

Copyright Statement

The contractor agrees and acknowledges that the right title and interest in any intellectual property including but not limited to patents, trademarks, service marks, registered designs, utility models, design rights, topography rights, copyrights (including copyright in computer programs), database rights, inventions, know-how, Restricted Information, business or trade names, get-up, domain names, endorsement or image rights, character merchandising and the right to publicity, and all other intellectual property and neighbouring rights and rights of similar or corresponding character (including all associated goodwill), enforceable anywhere in the world (whether or not the same are registered or capable of registration) and all applications for, or for the protection of, any of the (“Intellectual Property Rights”) arising from or created in connection with the Services are or shall vest in Student Sport Ireland (SSI) and shall be the sole property of SSI.

Without prejudice to the rights of Student Sport Ireland (SSI), any publication of materials by the contractor shall acknowledge the role of SSI, the Irish Sports Council and Sport Northern Ireland in initiating and funding the research and will include the following statement “The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SSI, ISC or SNI”. 

Other acknowledgements

Survey completion relied heavily upon the contribution of institutional “Champions”. A full list of 36 “Champions” contained with the full report document. Within each college champions were assisted by a number of paid and voluntary staff

Dr Claire Gormley and Keefe Murphy (University College Dublin) assisted with some statistical analysis. Student Sport Ireland’s Research Management Group were involved at every stage of the project: Mr Brian Mullins (University College Dublin, Chairperson), Mr Peter Smyth (Director of Research, Sport Ireland), Dr Paul Donnelly (Policy, Planning and Research Manager, Sport Northern Ireland), Mr John Kerrane (Student Sport Ireland), Ms. Niamh O’Callaghan (Sports Officer, Dublin IT), Mr Ciarán Ó hIarnáin, (Development Manager, Student Sport Ireland).

Several postgraduate students who took a leadership role in the physical health data collection.  These were: Joseph Murphy (Dublin City University), and undergraduates Orlaith Duff, Ciara McCormack and Andrew O’Brien, Jack Murray (IT Carlow), Grainne Hayes (University of Limerick), James McCabe and Edel Campbell (Ulster University).




Data (available through ISSDA application process)

File name


File format/s

Contents of file



Survey variables and data


Documentation (available for download)

File name


File format/s

Contents of file



Contains variable name, question wording, valid codes and code description for each variable in the AMF.



To be read in conjunction with the data dictionary. Contains further detail to assist in use of the data dictionary. 






Report of top line analyses.



Contains report on methodology, fieldwork, data preparation and analysis.



Student Sport Ireland website contains section relevant to the SASSI study:



Accessing the data

To access the data, please complete a ISSDA Data Request Form for Research Purposes, sign it, and send it to ISSDA by email.

Data will be disseminated on receipt of a fully completed, signed form. Incomplete or unsigned forms will be returned to the data requester for completion.



Any work based in whole or part on resources provided by the ISSDA, should  acknowledge: “Student Activity and Sports Study Ireland (SASSI), 2014-2015" and also ISSDA, in the following way: “Accessed via the Irish Social Science Data Archive -”.

Citation requirement

The data and its creators shall be cited in all publications and presentations for which the data have been used. The bibliographic citation may be in the form suggested by the archive or in the form required by the publication.

Bibliographical citation

Student Sport Ireland (2017). Student Activity and Sports Study Ireland (SASSI), 2014-2015. [dataset]. 1st Edition. Irish Social Science Data Archive. SN:0054-00.


The user shall notify the Irish Social Science Data Archive of all publications where she or he has used the data.

For a list of Sports related datasets click here.