Student Satisfaction Surveys

What are student satisfaction surveys?

The main student satisfaction survey run in the UK is the National Student Survey (NSS). The NSS is run by Ipsos MORI (which is a market research company based in London) and is commissioned by the Office for Students (OfS). It commissioned on behalf of the UK funding bodies – the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for Economy Northern Ireland (DfENI).

The NSS has been conducted each year since 2005, and has been helping students and universities to make improvements and informed decisions. In the UK, it is compulsory for most higher education institutions, including universities and further education colleges, to take part in the NSS.

As well as this official and widely recognised survey, universities may run their own surveys, which can also be interesting to participate in and study the results of.

Why should I look at the results?

Taking the results of the NSS into consideration when you are starting your university journey can be helpful. The results of the most recent survey can be indicative of the community at different universities, and might help you to make a decision about where you would (or wouldn’t) like to study.

Whilst it is important to see what universities say about their offerings, it can be more insightful to see what actual students think about the university and their course in particular. It can also be interesting to look at results year on year. If you can see that results are improving, this could be an indication that the university is paying attention the feedback they are receiving from students. On the other hand, if you can see that results are staying the same or getting worse, this could be because the university isn’t acting on what their students are telling them.

Another thing that the results can give you is an insight into specific elements that may be important to you. Some examples of areas that the NSS covers are:

  • Academic support
  • Mental wellbeing services
  • Teaching on a specific course
  • Learning resources
  • Organisation and management

If you are particularly interested in a certain area, looking at the results around that area can give you an idea of whether the university prioritises that element. As well as these areas, universities can offer up to six banks of additional questions, and can also include up to two additional specific questions. By looking at what sort of questions they are asking you can get an idea of what the university is interested in getting feedback on, and therefore might be aiming to improve or change.

Why should I participate in student surveys?

There are several reasons that you should consider taking part in the NSS. Taking part in the survey can help students, universities and prospective students. By providing your feedback, you could help to shape the future of your university and course.

When a prospective student looks at the results for universities they are interested in, they will be able to see what current students really think of their university and course. This insight might help them to decide that they do (or do not) want to study at a specific university. As well as this, your feedback will help your university to understand what the students think about the areas they are questioned about, and in turn make improvements based on data and opinions.

By providing your feedback you are also allowing a university to be held accountable for the education and services they provide. If a university if underperforming in certain areas, such as a lack of mental wellbeing support or learning resources, students and teachers will be able to see this in the results, and the university will feel more inclined to make improvements. This can also be a positive thing, because if a university is performing well and there is a high student satisfaction rate, they should be celebrated for this, and prospective students should be able to see that they could be happy at that university.

The results of an NSS survey will also mean that UK higher education regulatory and quality assurance bodies can gain an insight into what students actually think of both the general state of higher education, and the offerings of specific universities. This means that the relevant education bodies can have a holistic view of the situation in higher education, and make any adjustments necessary in order to improve the experience of students nationwide.

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