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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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In 2017 a new National Student Survey (NSS) questionnaire was introduced following a two year research and testing programme. This was followed by changes to the optional banks of questions for 2018. The timeline below gives an overview of what research happened when, and the subsequent changes made to the survey.


From 2014-16 the four UK higher education funding bodies undertook a review of the NSS as part of a wider review of information on higher education.

In 2014 we published two major research contributions to this review:

The research did not recommend radical changes to the survey. It suggested some alterations to preserve its strengths and address identified weaknesses, including new questions on student engagement and examining barriers to the inclusion of some students.

New survey

We undertook testing to inform a new survey including initial cognitive testing of potential student engagement questions and a national pilot in 2015. Based on the findings from this research, we consulted on our proposals for the new survey through the wider review of information on higher education in October 2015.

In August 2016 the outcomes of the new survey consultation were published. We undertook further cognitive testing and another pilot in 2016 to help inform the questions for the new survey. The UK funding bodies published arrangements for a revised National Student Survey, including the list of new questions, via a circular letter in September 2016. In 2017, these changes were put into effect and a new survey was implemented which included nine new student engagement questions.

Optional banks

In late 2016 qualitative testing of new optional bank questions with final year undergraduate students was completed and, for the 2018 survey, the existing optional banks were supplemented with new banks of questions. The UK funding bodies communicated arrangements regarding the new options banks via a circular letter in October 2017.

In 2017, we undertook further testing with students to explore students’ comprehension of the existing question statements and terminologies for the optional bank questions within the survey.  Based on this research, we intend to work with students and providers to examine if more fundamental changes to the optional bank are needed from 2019 onwards.

Earlier research

Research has been undertaken throughout the lifetime of the NSS to ensure the survey is fit for purpose and robust. This has guided its development and led to the full review as detailed above. Links to previous publications can be found below:

Understanding the information needs of users of public information about higher education, Enhancing and Developing the National Student Survey (2010)

National Student Survey 2005-2007: findings and trends (2008)

Review of the 2008 National Student Survey (NSS) process (2008)


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Page last updated 13 March 2018