Student satisfaction at a nine-year high

12 August 2013

Students studying at UK higher education institutions (HEIs) and further education colleges (FECs) continue to be very satisfied, with 85 per cent of respondents to this year's National Student Survey (NSS) saying they are satisfied overall with their course. A further 7 per cent were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with their higher education experience, while 7 per cent were dissatisfied.

In each of the eight categories covered by the survey, satisfaction has either improved or stayed the same as in 2012. In particular, students’ satisfaction has increased in the areas of Assessment and feedback and Learning resources, with an improvement of 2 per cent in both categories.

Around 304,000 final-year students responded to the survey this year, from 154 HEIs and 165 FECs from across the UK (Note 1). This represents a response rate of 68.6 per cent, the highest rate in the nine years that the NSS has been running.

The results of the survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI, provide valuable information for prospective students, and help universities and colleges to further improve the education they provide.

A summary table of results is shown below. More detailed data are available on the HEFCE web-pages (Note 4).

1-4 The teaching on my course 86% 86%
5-9 Assessment and feedback 70% 72%
10-12 Academic support 79% 80%
13-15 Organisation and management 77% 78%
16-18 Learning resources 82% 84%
19-21 Personal development 81% 82%
22 Overall satisfaction 85% 85%
24 Student Union 66% 67%

HEFCE Chief Executive Sir Alan Langlands said:

‘These strong results continue to demonstrate the high-quality student experience provided by universities and colleges in the UK. However, institutions must continue to enhance what they offer and, respond effectively to the diverse needs of their students. The NSS provides crucial information which not only informs student choices but also improvements in learning and teaching across the sector.’

Universities Minister, David Willetts said:

'It is very encouraging to see student satisfaction is continuing to rise. University is an enjoyable and life-enhancing experience for most students, as this survey shows.

'The National Student Survey plays an important role in providing students with information to help them make choices about higher education. It also helps universities understand how they can offer students the best experience.'

Professor Janet Beer, Chair of the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group and Vice-Chancellor, Oxford Brookes University, said:

‘The National Student Survey has great value as both a reliable source of information for applicants about individual courses and as a touchstone for the benefits of continuing investment in the student experience. It is particularly pleasing to see the increase in the numbers of students participating in the survey and that the improvements in the areas of assessment, feedback and learning resources are being maintained.’

Toni Pearce, National President of the National Union of Students, said:

'It’s encouraging to see that the student experience is continuing to improve and that more students than ever have responded to the National Student Survey.  The score for assessment is at its highest level ever and we’re pleased that the work of institutions and students’ unions in this area is showing positive results.

'This is only the second year that students have been asked their views about their union and I’m delighted to see improvement already. Students’ unions are a vital part of the student experience and institutions must invest in them if this progress is to continue.'

HEFCE commissions 10-year NSS review

HEFCE and the other UK funding bodies are undertaking a review of the provision of higher education information. The work is being overseen by the UK Higher Education Public Information Steering Group and includes a 10-year review of the design and scope of the National Student Survey. NatCen Social Research (in collaboration with the Institute of Education and the Institute for Employment Studies) has been awarded the contract to review the purpose and suitability of the NSS. In parallel with this study, HEFCE is working in house to examine the statistical outcomes of the survey, including an analysis of trends over time. Both NSS studies will be published on the HEFCE website in Spring 2014 and contribute to the wider review.


  1. The NSS covers nearly all final-year undergraduates studying for higher education qualifications at HEIs (including the independent University of Buckingham) and FECs in England and Wales, HEIs in Northern Ireland and 18 institutions in Scotland (listed below). Students on initial teacher training courses funded by the Training and Development Agency for Schools, and students studying NHS-funded subjects, are also included. The threshold for publication at each institution is that at least 23 students from each course must have responded, and that these represent at least half the students eligible to participate.
  2. The 19 Scottish higher education institutions that took part in the 2013 NSS are:
  • University of Abertay
  • University of Aberdeen
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Dundee
  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • Glasgow School of Art
  • Queen Margaret University
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • University of Glasgow
  • Robert Gordon University
  • University of Strathclyde
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • University of St Andrews
  • University of Stirling
  • University of the West of Scotland
  • Scotland’s Rural College
  • University of the Highlands and Islands
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
  • The Open University in Scotland.
  1. Summary data from the survey and results from the survey question on overall satisfaction are available. HEFCE does not publish league tables. The data are sorted alphabetically by institution.
  2. The Unistats website update, which will include data from the NSS; will be launched in September. Unistats is maintained and developed by Eduserv.

Page last updated 15 August 2013

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