Q&As for students
- What is the National Student Survey (NSS)?
The NSS is a high profile annual census of nearly half a million students across the UK. Conducted each year since 2005, it is an established survey and produces influential data, giving students a powerful voice to help shape the future of their course at their university or college.The survey runs across all publicly funded Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, as well as other providers of higher education. Further Education Colleges (FECs) in England and Further Education Institutions (FEIs) in Wales with directly funded Higher Education students are eligible to participate.
The survey is aimed at final year undergraduates with the purpose of gathering feedback from all students at the end of their studies. Students are asked to respond to 23 questions relating to various aspects of their course. They are also given the opportunity to make open-ended positive and negative comments on their student learning experience as a whole at their university or college.
- Why is the NSS conducted?
The NSS is conducted for three main reasons:
- To inform student decisions - it enables prospective students to compare courses at different institutions when deciding what and where to study.
- To provide information to enhance the student learning experience - universities and colleges use the results to help develop their courses and facilities for future students.
- To support quality assurance and accountability- the survey provides information as part of the quality assurance system and contributes to the public accountability of higher education.
- How will the results be used?
The NSS results are made available to prospective students through the Unistats website, which is designed to help students when they are making decisions about higher education. The results of the NSS are also used by universities and colleges themselves to identify what is going well but also where improvements can be made, to improve the overall student learning experience.
The results of the NSS, which includes both the statistical data and students' comments may be used to undertake research by HEFCE or researchers with a licence/contractual agreement with HEFCE to undertake research. Any published materials will protect student anonymity.
- Who benefits from the NSS?
Your feedback provides your institution with a picture of what the learning experience was like for students completing their course in 2016. Institutions and students' unions use the anonymised data internally to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, to help effect change, and to bring about enhancements intended to improve the student experience. More widely, the survey results inform the higher education quality assurance system to generate information about teaching quality.
The NSS results are made publicly available to help prospective students make informed decisions about where and what to study. Data from the NSS are made publicly available on Unistats. This official site allows prospective students to compare information across higher education courses.
- Why should I complete the NSS?
Only you and your fellow students know what it is like to study on your course. The NSS has been designed to capture students' views on the areas that matter to them. For example, in 2005, at a national level 'assessment and feedback' scores were relatively low. As a direct result of students sharing their views through the NSS, action has been taken by universities and colleges to address this and scores in this area have improved significantly over time.
Your responses on the NSS will also help to provide useful information to prospective students about your course at your institution. The results are made available to prospective students through the Unistats website which allows prospective students to compare data about UK higher education courses.
- What is being asked in the survey?
The survey asks undergraduates to provide feedback on their courses in a nationally recognised format. There are 22 core questions, relating to the following aspects of the student learning experience:
- Teaching on my Course
- Assessment and Feedback
- Academic Support
- Organisation and Management
- Learning Resources
- Personal Development
- Overall Satisfaction
Students' Union (Association or Guild).
Additionally, the survey includes a question about the Students' Union (Association or Guild).
Open text comments
Students are also given the opportunity to give positive and negative comments on their student learning experience as a whole at their university or college. If you provide comments, these may be passed on, anonymously, to your institution to help them identify how they can make improvements. They may also be used by HEFCE or researchers with a license/contractual arrangement with HEFCE to undertake research. Published materials will protect student anonymity. Please note that the open-ended questions are optional and there is a maximum word limit of 4,000 characters. You may choose to send additional comments by email or post.
To preserve your own and others' anonymity, please do not make comments that:
- could enable you as an individual to be identified;
- name individuals; or
- make references that could identify an individual e.g. a course leader or head of department.
Additional Optional Questions
Some institutions have opted to ask their students additional questions. If you are a student at one such institution you will only be asked these extra questions after you have completed the main questionnaire online. Completion of these extra questions is not obligatory, and if you decline to do so, your answers for the main NSS questions will still be taken into account. The extra questions should only take a few minutes to complete. The answers to these questions will only be provided to your institution and students' union and will not be made publicly available.
Intentions after Graduation Survey
You may also be asked if you wish to take part in the Intentions after Graduation Survey (IAGS). Please note that this survey is separate to the National Student Survey. Completion of this survey is not obligatory and you can decline the invitation to complete it. Your answers for the NSS will still be submitted regardless of whether you complete the IAGS.
- Why should I respond honestly?
The NSS is an opportunity for students to provide open and honest feedback about their course in an anonymous way. While institutions are encouraged to promote the survey and remind students to complete the NSS, they must not encourage students to reflect in their answers anything other than their genuine perceptions of their experience.
Any inappropriate attempts to influence the outcomes of the NSS are taken extremely seriously by the funders of the survey. If you have any concerns, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Why am I being asked more than 23 questions?
Some universities and colleges have chosen to ask their students some additional questions in areas relevant to their particular learning experience. The additional questions are only asked if you are completing the survey online and should take just a few minutes to complete. You will be given the choice of whether you want to continue with these extra questions when you have completed the main NSS questionnaire online. If you choose not to complete the additional questions, your responses to the main survey will still be taken into account.
Students studying NHS subjects undertake practice placements, so their experience of Higher Education is slightly different. Therefore, in addition to the core 23 questions, students studying NHS subjects are asked additional questions about their practice placement. You can view the National Student Survey Questionnaire (NHS) here.
After you have completed the NSS, you may also be asked if you wish to take part in the Intentions After Graduation Survey (IAGS). Please note that this survey is separate from the NSS. The survey asks final year students undertaking a Bachelor's degree about their plans after graduating from their current course and takes about three minutes to complete. Completion of this short survey is not obligatory and you can decline the invitation to complete it. Your answers for the NSS will still be submitted regardless of whether you complete this survey.
- Do all students answer the same questions?
The NSS consists of 23 questions and two free-response questions (you can see the National Student Survey Questionnaire here). All students will be asked these questions. If you are studying an NHS-funded course, you will also be asked questions about your placement. Your university or college may choose to ask a few additional questions as well, which may be specific to your institution.
- How long does it take to complete the NSS?
It only takes about ten minutes to complete the 23 core NSS questions.
Your institution may choose to include some questions in addition to the core NSS questions, but you may opt not to respond to these if you prefer.
- Who is eligible to complete the NSS?
The NSS is run across all publicly funded Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, as well as some other providers. Further Education Colleges (FECs) in England and Further Education Institutions (FEIs) in Wales with directly funded Higher Education students are eligible to participate.
All students studying on courses leading to undergraduate credits or qualifications which are longer than 1 year full-time study or its part time equivalent (such as bachelor's degrees, foundation degrees, higher education diplomas) will be surveyed in their final year of study.
Students on more flexible part-time programmes (whose final year cannot be easily predicted) will normally be surveyed during their fourth year of study. Students who have withdrawn from study during their final year will be included in the survey as their feedback is equally valuable. Students repeating their penultimate year will be surveyed NOT when they eventually progress to their final year but in the year they were originally expected to graduate. Students who have changed their course arrangements, but were originally expected to graduate in 2016, will only be eligible in the current year and not when they eventually reach their final year. Students who were already surveyed in 2015 will not be surveyed in 2016.
To check whether you are eligible for the survey, please click here.
For more detailed eligibility criteria, please click here.
- How do I participate in the NSS?
Ipsos MORI will contact all eligible students by email, telephone or post.
You will be asked for some personal data in order to verify that you are eligible to take part in the survey. Please provide all the information requested, as your responses will only be taken into account if all of your personal information is accurate. If your personal information is not accurate we may re-contact you to validate your response.
We will initially attempt to contact you by email, and if we have no response, we will then contact you by post or by telephone. The survey is linked to a live database of eligible students, which is updated on a regular basis so that students who have already completed the NSS will not receive further invitations. If you have completed the survey yet still receive an invitation or a reminder, this may be because we could not match the details you supplied to the ones supplied by your institution, or because there was some overlap between when you sent your response (for example by post) and when we re-contacted you.
- Where did you get my contact details, and how are they stored?
Students' contact details have been supplied to Ipsos MORI by their university/college under HEFCE's authority on behalf of the other funders. Ipsos MORI have been commissioned to conduct the NSS and will use students' details for the purpose of the NSS only. All students' details will be removed from Ipsos MORI's computer systems when the project has been completed in May.
Ipsos MORI is a member of the Market Research Society and all details and responses will be handled in full accordance with data protection legislation.
Please read the full Privacy Statement for more details.
- Why am I being asked to take part in the NSS when I am not a final year student?
There are a few exceptions in which some students who may not be in their final year are eligible to complete the NSS. Therefore, if you have been contacted by Ipsos MORI to take part in the survey, you are eligible and we would like to receive your response.
Please email email@example.com if you would like us to check your eligibility.
- I completed the survey last year. Why am I being asked to complete it again?
If you have been contacted by Ipsos MORI to complete the survey this year, you are eligible and we would like you to complete the survey. All students contacted this year are deemed eligible regardless of their situation in the previous year. You may have been surveyed last year in error, or you may have been surveyed about another course. Please click here to enter the survey.
- I have tried to complete the survey online but it does not recognise me as eligible.
If you cannot access the survey, we would advise that you check the validation information that you have entered. Please also check that you are eligible to complete the survey, by using the eligibility criteria here, or by using the eligibility checking function here. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Why have I received a reminder to complete the NSS when I have already completed the survey?
If you have received a reminder from Ipsos MORI after completing the survey, there may be three reasons for this:
- We have not received your completed questionnaire. It may be that you did not fully complete and submit your response. In this case, we ask that you please fully complete the survey again.
- We could not match your details to our database (which contains all students who are eligible to take part) to validate your response. We need to ensure that the response we received is from you in order to validate it. Please complete the survey again and provide accurate identification information to allow us to validate your response.
- There was an overlap between when you sent your response (for example by post) and the updating of our database. We update our database on a daily basis throughout the survey period to limit this occurrence but some respondents do slip through. Please contact email@example.com to check if we have logged your completed response.
Once you have completed the NSS and your response has been validated, you should receive no further communication from Ipsos MORI.
Please note that in addition to reminders from Ipsos MORI, you may receive a reminder from your institution. This is because they are not supplied with the details of those that have completed the survey and cannot target their emails only to students who have not yet responded. We do not provide this information to institutions in order to help maintain student anonymity.
If you continue to receive reminders and you believe there has been an error, please contact Ipsos MORI at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Will my responses be confidential?
The survey is undertaken by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the UK higher education funding bodies. Your responses to the survey are strictly confidential, and all responses are anonymised before they are made available to institutions. All responses remain confidential except in exceptional circumstances where there is evidence the respondent or others are at risk of harm.
Ipsos MORI is one of the largest and best known research companies in the UK and a key part of Ipsos, a leading global research company. All of our research is conducted in compliance with the Data Protection Act. Find out more about our work.
- What if I don’t want to complete the NSS?
Participation in the NSS is voluntary so if for some reason you do not wish to take part, you can opt-out of the survey.
At any stage that Ipsos MORI contacts you directly you can reply and say you do not wish to take part. You will then not be contacted again by Ipsos MORI. However, you must actively opt-out if you do not wish to be surveyed – not responding to the email, postal questionnaire or telephone interview does not constitute an opt-out. If you have a preferred method of contact, you can also choose to opt-out of specific stages of the survey (e.g. the online survey) by clicking here, or you can opt-out of all stages by clicking here.
We need to be sure of the identity of the student opting-out. We therefore ask for the same identification information as for those responding to the survey.
- Can I change or withdraw my survey responses?
We do accept additional comments to the open questions. If you would like to make any additional comments, please contact us at email@example.com. Please note that in order to append additional comments to your submitted survey responses we will ask you for some verification information.
Respondents are also entitled to ask that part or all of their record of the survey/research be deleted. Any requests to change responses should be made by 30 April 2016.
- How can I be sure that my concerns expressed in the survey are acted upon?
The NSS is a quantitative study and the results are analysed in the summer, at aggregated level. The data are not intended to addresses respondents' requests at a personal, individual level. If students have concerns about their own or others' health and wellbeing they should raise these with their welfare services as this will provide the quickest response.
- Who should I contact if I have a query?
Respondents are also entitled to ask that part or all of their record of the survey/research be deleted. Any requests to change responses should be made by 30 April 2016.