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In each of the six main categories covered by the NSS, satisfaction has improved. The questions for which students have consistently expressed the lowest level of satisfaction, ‘Assessment and feedback’ has improved from 68 to 70 per cent since last year.

New this year was the addition of a question on satisfaction with students’ unions. This addition follows research into what information students would find most helpful in choosing which university or college to attend.

Students from 154 higher education institutions (HEIs) and 106 further education colleges (FECs) from across the UK (Note 2) took part. Around 287,000 final-year students responded to the survey this year, an increase of over 20,000 from last year. This represents a response rate of 67 per cent, the highest rate in the eight years the NSS has been running. The results of the survey 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. Detailed data are available on the Unistats web-site, which gives data on responses by all students in the survey by institution and by subject. The survey was conducted by Ipsos MORI.

2012 National Student Survey results for the UK

The percentages show students who were definitely or mostly satisfied in response to the questions in the survey (Note 4).

  2011 2012
1 - The teaching on my course (Q 1-4) 84 86
2 - Assessment and feedback (Q5-9)> 68 70
3 - Academic support (Q10-12) 77 79
4 - Organisation and management (Q13-15) 75 77
5 - Learning resources (Q16-18) 80 82
6 - Personal development (Q 19-21) 80 81
7 - Overall satisfaction (Q 22) 83 85
8 - Students' union (Q24)  - 66
9 - NHS practice placements (Q 25-30) 84 85

 HEFCE Chief Executive, Sir Alan Langlands, said:

‘This year’s excellent results underline the commitment of universities and colleges to excellence in teaching and learning and improving the all round student experience. We have seen steady improvements in the results since the survey began, but this year’s increases are particularly welcome and will act as a spur to further improvement. As prospective students demand better information, the National Student Survey will form a key part of the improved Unistats web-site’.

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

‘The increase in the number of students completing the survey is important for a number of reasons. Not only do the results drive improvements across higher education but they also inform the decisions of future students as they contemplate where to study – a role which will grow in prominence with the launch, this year, of Key Information Sets.'

Liam Burns, NUS President said:

‘We have supported and worked with the NSS since it began in 2005 as a tool for securing improvement to student experience. Although in that time progress has not been as rapid as we would have liked, particularly in areas such as assessment and feedback, results have continued to improve year on year and they must continue to do so.’

‘This is the first time students’ unions have been included in the NSS, and it is clear that these initial results pose challenges and identify scope for continuous improvement. We are committed to continuing our work with our member unions to both develop their work and better communicate it to their students.’


  1. A separate press release will be published today about the Unistats web-site and Key Information Sets (KIS).
  2. A further 8 per cent were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with their higher education experience; only 8 per cent were dissatisfied (figures do not sum due to rounding).
  3. The NSS started in 2005. This year it covered 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 15 institutions in Scotland (listed below). Also included are students on initial teacher training courses funded by the Training and Development Agency for Schools, and students studying NHS-funded subjects. The threshold for publication is that at least 23 students from each course must have responded at each institution, and that these represent at least half the students eligible to participate.
  4. The 15 (out of a total of 19) Scottish higher education institutions that took part in the 2012 NSS are: 
    • University of Aberdeen
    • University of Abertay, Dundee
    • 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
  5. In addition to the universities listed in note 4, students at the Open University (OU) in Scotland are included in the survey. Results for the OU in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are included in the total figure for the OU which are shown in the summary spreadsheet.
  6. Of the 30 questions in the 2012 NSS, one is an open question about positive or negative aspects of the student experience. The results of this are not published: instead the comments are passed back to the respective institutions, to offer insights into the reasons behind their satisfaction scores.
  7. Although only 66 per cent agreed that they were satisfied with their Student Unions, a high number neither agreed nor disagreed, so it is not possible to draw definite conclusions from this.
  8. The NSS results are available on and will be useful to prospective students, their families and advisors. The Unistats web-site is being run and maintained by Eduserv from this year.
  9. Benchmarked data
    This year, for the second time, benchmarks indicating sector comparisons for Question 22 (‘Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of the course’) are being published. This follows research showing that NSS results cannot be meaningfully compared across institutions without taking account of the mix of students and subjects. Certain groups of students consistently report lower levels of satisfaction – such as certain ethnic groups (although there has been some improvement over time) and older students.

    Benchmarks take account of these issues and make for a more reliable and robust comparison between institutions. Without them, the data would show lower results for universities and colleges that happen to have large numbers of particular types of student. Benchmarks are not targets, but simply a more reliable way of comparing institutions’ performance.

    The ‘raw’ results for Question 22, including indicators that show whether institutions have achieved significantly above or below their benchmark, are also being published.
  10. 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 available sorted alphabetically by institution.