Five Ideas...reasons to promote the National Student Survey

Tuesday 02-02-2016 - 09:00

Launching at universities and colleges across the country in January, the National Student Survey is the UK’s third largest survey, with close to 400,000 higher education students eligible to complete it each year. Here are five reasons why you should promote it to your students…

1. Better quality data for you to use

Students’ unions and course reps have successfully used NSS data to push for improvements to learning and teaching, particularly in the area of assessment and feedback. Higher response rates, and a good response across all your departments and courses, make it easier to identify areas to work on in partnership with staff. Also, the higher the response rate, the more sure you can be that the survey reflects what students actually think.

2. Encourage honest answers

Concern has been raised in the past around universities and colleges using various tactics to encourage a positive response to the NSS. As the students’ union, you are well placed to emphasise the survey’s anonymity and encourage honest answers, especially if you can use examples of where such honest feedback has led to changes for students.

3. Get views from underrepresented groups

NSS data can be broken down by department, subject or course, but also by several demographic categories including age, gender, disability, ethnicity, domicile, socio-economic status and religion (NI only). Such breakdowns often highlight specific problems faced by these groups and can bolster campaigning work for your liberation and diversity officers.

4. Shout about your wins

Many universities and colleges use “you said, we did” campaigns to promote the NSS. Students’ unions can do the same, provided you make sure to stay within the rules about “inappropriate influence”. Did your Q23 data lead you to engage with certain groups of students this year? Did you win an academic campaign that you used NSS as evidence for? Tell students about it – and encourage them to fill in the survey.

5. Your networks are great!

Your existing networks of student activists: course reps, society members, volunteers – are ideally placed to promote the survey. If you can add an element of competition, even better…

Who’s eligible for the survey and what’s covered?

All final year undergraduates are eligible, whether they study in a university, in a college or in participating alternative providers. The survey asks 23 questions about students’ satisfaction with their courses, covering areas including teaching quality; assessment and feedback; academic support; organisation and management; learning resources; personal development; overall satisfaction and the students’ union, association or guild.

For more information about promoting the NSS 2016, see our promotional guide. You can also read Ipsos MORIs guide for institutions and check out HEFCEs guidance on “inappropriate influence” and make sure you and your institution both take note.

Ipsos MORI will send your institution hard copies of marketing materials such as posters and pens, but you can also download the official resources here:

For further information, please contact



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