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Comment on the National Student Survey results (and why the NSS needs another revamp)

  • 3 July 2019

Responding to the new National Student Survey results from the Office for Students, Nick Hillman, the Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:

It is good that student satisfaction is rising, if only slightly and not everywhere. But as our own surveys show, you need to get underneath the student satisfaction data to really understand the student experience and the National Student Survey is of very limited value in doing that.

It only covers final-year undergraduates, ignores contact hours / workload and is too anodyne to be properly useful as a resource. In my view, it is time for the survey to be completely revamped. Until this happens, there will continue to be no official data on how hard students really work.

Each year, when the NSS results come out, the focus is generally on the lower scores for feedback. They are not as high as they could be and, as a sector, we do need to go on making further improvements in this area. But the scores for satisfaction with student unions are much lower still, yet are generally completely ignored.

The unimpressive results on student unions should be a wake-up call for the new student union officers that are taking up their posts up and down the UK, for the leadership of the National Union of Students and for higher education institutions and policymakers, who need to give student unions the support they need to thrive and support their members.

Notes for Editors

  1. The National Student Survey asks students if they agree ‘The students’ union (association or guild) effectively represents students’ academic interests.’ In England, 57% of students agree, in Scotland 52% agree, in Wales 59% agree and in Northern Ireland 59% agree.
  2. The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) is a charitable think-tank that was established in 2002 to influence the higher education debate with evidence. We are funded by organisations and universities that wish to see a vibrant higher education debate as well as through our own events.

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