Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE)
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Best-ever response rate for National Student Survey

More students than ever have responded to the National Student Survey (NSS) this year. Nearly 220,000 students completed the 2008 survey. This figure comprises over 210,000 students studying at higher education institutions (HEIs) (up from 177,000 last year) plus over 6,000 students studying higher education at further education (FE) colleges, which took part in the survey for the first time this year. This is the fourth annual National Student Survey.

For the first time since the NSS began, all HEIs had an overall response rate of 50 per cent or higher, which means they all met the threshold for publication at whole-institution level (Note 1). A total of 149 HEIs and 117 FE colleges from across the UK took part in the survey.

For HEIs in England, the overall satisfaction rate (Question 22 in the survey) went up slightly from 81 per cent last year to 82 per cent, and the summary scores for satisfaction for each of the six sets of questions has increased in each case (see table below). This does not include results for students at FE colleges (Note 2).

2008 National Student Survey results for students in England

Questions2007 NSS2008 NSS
% average agreement
1-4 The teaching on my course 82 83
5-9 Assessment and feedback 62 64
10-12 Academic support 71 73
13-15 Organisation and management 71 73
16-18 Learning resources 80 81
19-21 Personal development 77 78
22 Overall satisfaction 81 82

The figures in the table are for students registered at HEIs in England. The Unistats web-site gives data on all students in the survey and has been updated to include the 2008 NSS results. It covers higher education students in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and nine Scottish universities, and students on higher education courses at FE colleges. Responses from some students on initial teacher training courses and NHS funded courses are also available.

HEFCE Chief Executive, Professor David Eastwood, said:

'The results of this year's survey demonstrate the continuing success of universities and colleges in delivering a high quality learning experience for their students. The National Student Survey is a valuable exercise as part of a robust quality framework for higher education'.

Minister for Students, Delyth Morgan said:

'The continued high level of satisfaction - 82 per cent - shown by students is a welcome testament to the quality of the teaching and learning experience in this country. Our students deserve the best and these results show that universities and colleges are meeting students' expectations and delivering a high quality experience'.

Professor Michael Arthur, chair of the NSS steering group and Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds, said:

'The National Student Survey is a fantastic success. With more than 200,000 students and every institution now meeting the publication threshold, the NSS is clearly established as a permanent fixture in the higher education landscape, and is universally recognised for its valuable contribution to maintaining and enhancing the quality of teaching and learning.'

NUS Vice-President for Higher Education, Aaron Porter, said:

'It is very good news that students are expressing greater satisfaction with their experience at university. This shows how important the National Student Survey has been in bringing about institutional change to the benefit of students. We are particularly pleased to see progress in the area of assessment and feedback, as students have expressed concern about this in previous surveys.

'It is very useful that higher education students studying in further education colleges have been included in the survey for the first time. The National Student Survey has already driven change in HEIs, and we hope that, having identified some areas for improvement, it will now do the same in FE institutions. Eight per cent of all higher education students are studying in FE colleges. It is important that higher education students receive the same standard of experience, regardless of where they study.'


1.   The threshold for publication is 50 per cent for institutions and at least 23 students for subjects.

2.   The overall results for question 22 for students studying higher education courses at FE colleges was 76 per cent.

3.   The NSS survey covers nearly all final year undergraduates studying for higher education qualifications at HEIs and FE colleges in England, HEIs in Wales and Northern Ireland, nine institutions in Scotland, and the independent University of Buckingham. Students on initial teacher training courses funded by the Training and Development Agency for Schools and students on NHS-funded courses are also included.

4.   The percentages used in the table and the paragraph above relate to students registered with English higher education institutions, including the Open University.

5.   Summary data are available on the HEFCE web-site. The full dataset is available on the Unistats web-site.

6.   The NSS was carried out by Ipsos MORI. The data are available for prospective students, their parents and advisors on the Unistats web-site which is developed and maintained by UCAS and Hotcourses, www.unistats.com.

7.   A small proportion of part-time students who completed the survey may not have been in their final year.

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