Chris Laity unpacks the 2019 NSS results and what they mean for universities in Wales.
The National Student Survey (NSS) was launched in 2005 and is an annual survey for student satisfaction in the UK. All final year undergraduate students in the UK, including part-time and full, time are eligible to participate. In Wales, just over 16,200 students took part in the survey beating last year’s record. Students have been encouraged over the years to complete the survey in numerous innovative ways, including the promise of a free cup of tea, a visit from a goat mascot or a donation made to a charity upon completion (but not necessarily all at the same time). Staff are encouraged to up student completion rates with inter-departmental competitions so that the dataset is as wide-ranging and useful as possible.
The survey measures student satisfaction with final year students being asked their opinions across a number of topics – ranging from student voice to timetabling. In the survey students are asking to what extent they agree with statements such as:
- ‘Staff are good at explaining things’
- ‘Feedback on my work has been timely
- ‘Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices on my course’
- ‘I feel part of a community of staff and students’
The results of the 2019 National Student Survey (NSS) were released on 3 July and show that Wales continues to remain top for student satisfaction having the joint highest score for overall satisfaction along with Northern Ireland. In the 2018 survey Wales came top with 85% overall satisfaction, a figure Wales matched this year.
As well as performing well for overall satisfaction, universities in Wales also scored highly across other categories coming top or joint top in 8 of the 11 categories used by the survey:
- The teaching on my course
- Learning opportunities
- Assessment and feedback
- Academic support
- Learning community
- Student voice
- Students’ union
- Overall satisfaction
Wales maintained or improved its position in every category and, along with Northern Ireland, had the highest net improvement in percentage points in the UK.
That Wales has again scored highly for student satisfaction shows that students on the whole value and rate highly their experience of studying in Wales. This lines up with other recent news stories on student experience including that Wales has the happiest students in the UK. In particular, the good results for areas on student voice reflect how student partnership has been an ongoing priority for the higher education sector in Wales.
There are often debates around the limitations of the NSS survey and how it could be made more useful – and it is by no means the only method that universities use to measure how students feel about their experience at university. Nonetheless it does provide a useful tool for universities looking to measure the impact of the work they do. It helps universities understand what parts of the student experience are performing well and what might be the areas for development. Given the ongoing hard work of higher education staff across Wales to provide an excellent student experience, we welcome the recognition this year’s results provide.