Guide to the National Student Survey: FAQs
STAFF and 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 all Alternative Providers (APs) in England, with specific course designation for new students. 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 27 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.
What is the difference between the National Student Survey and the School’s own internal teaching surveys?
The NSS asks students to provide feedback on their overall student experience on their degree programmes. The School’s internal survey focuses on individual teachers and courses. The NSS surveys final year undergraduates, whilst the LSE surveys all undergraduates and postgraduate taught students. The scaling system is also different – the NSS is scale is in the range 1-5 with 5 as the best score, whilst School’s internal surveys have the same range, but with 1 as the best score.
Who is eligible to take part in the survey?
The NSS is run across all publicly funded Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, as well as all Alternative Providers (APs) in England, with specific course designation for new students. 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 2017, will only be eligible in the current year and not when they eventually reach their final year. Students who were already surveyed in 2016 will not be surveyed in 2017.
When does the survey take place at LSE?
The survey runs from the beginning of January until the end of April.
How long does it take to complete the survey?
The survey is very straightforward and only takes about ten minutes to complete, or a little longer if you include written comments about your student experience.
What does the survey ask?
There are 27 core questions, relating to the following broad aspects of the student learning experience:
Teaching on my Course
Assessment and Feedback
Organisation and Management
What scales are used for the results?
Students are asked to respond to each statement (question) and are invited to give one of five responses (with best score 5) that indicates their level of agreement: Definitely agree (5); Mostly agree (4); Neither (3); Mostly disagree (2); Definitely disagree (1).
How are the results calculated?
The results are presented in two ways. One measure is a mean score (in the range 1 to 5,with 5 as the best score), averaged over the number of responses to the given question or set of questions, and excluding those who responded N/A. This NSS scale differs from that used in the School’s internal surveys, which have 1 as the best score.
The other measure is the percentage of responses that are either “definitely agree” (very satisfied) or “mainly agree” (fairly satisfied): that is, the combination of scores 4 or 5.
When are the results released?
The results are released in phases throughout August and September.
Why are there no results for some of our internal departments?
The NSS survey provides results across disciplines in two different ways:
(a) The “public data” — the information made available about all institutions — is for individual subject areas (JACS level 3). This does not necessarily correspond to departments, as different institutions organise subjects in different ways.
(b) Results are not published if the number of responses falls below a certain threshold (see below for more details).
What are the publication thresholds?
The publication threshold is at least 50% response rate with at least 10 students responding. Results that are used only internally (not public data) have a lower threshold of a minimum of 10 respondents.
Why are results from the publicly available data and internal data not always the same?
Subject areas and internal departmental structures are not organised in exactly the same way. So the results can sometimes seem slightly different.
Why are some institutions missing from the institutional comparison data?
This is probably because they fall below the publication threshold of a 50% response rate, with at least 10 responses.