The National Student Survey

As a course rep it is important that you gather as much evidence as possible to support your campaign. The National Student Survey can be a great asset, and one that is respected and widely understood.


What is the National Student Survey?

The National Student Survey is an annual survey canvassing the opinions of students about the experiences of their course.

Focusing on a range of issues from teaching quality to assessment and feedback, this is an ambitious attempt to report robust student opinion on every subject offered across the country.

Providing a unique insight into the thoughts and opinions of current students, the results will not only inform prospective students but also be a valuable resource for unions, aiding campaign and representation work.


Course Reps and the NSS

For course reps you will find the NSS results really valuable – they reflect the thoughts and feelings of those who have completed your course. As such, it is important that you ensure that you a) use the results and b) promote the survey to your peers.


Using the results

The NSS has a wealth of data that will be useful to you as a course rep. Here are some tips on how to make the most of the NSS:

  • Find out what students have thought in the past, and identify areas for change specific to your course
  • Look at what’s changed and what hasn’t
  • Compare students happiness on your course to the institutional or national average
  • Look at areas of good practice and share them with other reps to improve problem areas on their courses
  • Use it in meetings – solid evidence you can rely on and can’t be ignored
  • Support a campaign, or start a new one
  • Share your results to give students a reason to talk to you…


Using the results for change

  • Ask the institution what they’ve done to improve things since the last NSS – if they haven’t done anything, ask “why?”
  • Collect more student feedback to strengthen your argument – ask for examples of feedback on the course, run a survey or focus group among students, and ask them to identify solutions
  • Share these statistics– start a fun campaign that students will want to get involved in.
  • Compare practices on the best and worst courses – celebrate best practice and share it so that improvements can be made and consistency achieved
  • Look at the open text comments – see if they can shed more light on the poor areas.
  • Look to see if there are any other sources of student feedback that might be able to support the NSS results, e.g. module or union surveys, or information on the web.
  • Compare these with national statistics - which students are more or less dissatisfied?


Promoting the survey

In order for the results to be made public each subject needs at least 23 students to have responded, and for these students to be at least half of the number studying on that particular course. Also, the higher your response rate, the more valid your results.

Course reps can make a real difference with raising response rates and ensuring that students are aware of the survey and the impact it can have.

Tips for promoting the survey:

  • Contact all those on your course before the survey starts informing them of what it is, and why it is important to complete
  • Create an exciting promotional campaign which will grab people’s attention!
  • Work with your students’ union and ask for past NSS results which you can use when speaking to current students about what others have said.
  • “You said, we did” posters are a great way of making people realise that their feedback is used to make change. Find out what students have said in previous years and see what change has resulted from that.