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  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Population
  • Overview of results
  • Time series of results using a core population
  • Satisfaction of full-time core population by characteristics
  • Annex A 2009 NSS questions
  • Annex B NHS-funded and healthcare students
  • Annex C History of the National Student Survey population
  • Annex D NSS question results split by subject area

Executive summary


1. This report provides an overview of the results from the fifth annual National Student Survey (NSS) in 2009 and a four-year time series, between 2006 and 2009, of the overall scores for the higher education sector. We intend to publish these data annually, providing details of the satisfaction scores split by student and course characteristics.

2. This report follows on from work carried out by Paula Surridge which considered the NSS results for the years 2005 to 2007. While this report considers many of the same characteristics as her reports, it does not attempt to analyse the interactions between characteristics, and presents descriptive analyses only.

Key points

3. The NSS has been running annually since 2005, and during this time the coverage of the survey has widened and developed. This is the first analysis of NSS results to include substantial numbers of NHS-funded students. The report considers three main populations: the 'overall population', which contains all students invited to complete the NSS, the 'full-time core population' and the 'part-time core population', which contain only those groups of students who have been invited to complete the survey in each of the last four years. More detail on these populations is in paragraphs 25-28.

Overall population

4. For the 2009 NSS, we compared the satisfaction scores of various groups of students with those reported for the overall population (the 'global score'). Respondents studying in Northern Ireland and Scotland, when compared with those in England and Wales, were significantlySee note 1 more satisfied than the global score in the NSS categories of questions on Organisation and management, Learning resources, Personal development and Overall satisfaction, but were significantly less satisfied with Assessment and feedback.

5. Respondents studying at further education colleges (FECs) or on part-time courses showed significantly different satisfaction profiles to the global scores. Chiefly, they were more satisfied with Assessment and feedback and less satisfied with Learning resources.

6. NHS-funded students showed significantly different satisfaction profiles to non-NHS funded students. The two question categories with the largest differences were Organisation and management, where NHS-funded students were less satisfied, and Personal development, where NHS-funded students were more satisfied.

7. The overall population satisfaction scores were also considered by institution in order to get an idea of the variation in scores for each category of question within the sector. The category with the largest range in satisfaction scores was Learning resources, while the category with the smallest range was Teaching and learning.

Full-time and part-time core populations

8. The four-year time series, from 2006 to 2009, for respondents studying full-time showed that all question categories had seen an improvement in satisfaction. In comparison, respondents studying part-time were generally more satisfied than their full-time counterparts but saw smaller increases in satisfaction levels between 2006 and 2009. However, this was not the case for Learning resources, where the part-time satisfaction score was lower than the full-time score but saw a 5 per cent increase, compared to 2 per cent for full-time students.

9. To allow future year-on-year comparisons to be made of satisfaction scores split by course and student characteristics, the following results (paragraphs 10-16) relate to the full-time core population.

10. Significant differences were observed between female and male students, most notably for Academic support and Learning resources, where female students were less satisfied than male students.

11. Students in the age groups 21-24 and over 25 were significantly less satisfied than students aged under 21, in the categories of Academic support, Organisation and management, Learning resources and Overall satisfaction. However, students aged over 25 were significantly more satisfied than the global score in the question category Assessment and feedback.

12. Disabled students were significantly less satisfied than the global scores in five of the seven question categories; the categories with the lowest satisfaction scores were Organisation and management, and Overall satisfaction.

13. Satisfaction profiles varied significantly for students depending on their ethnic background. The only category where all the differences in satisfaction score were significant, however, was Teaching and learning: students from a White ethnic background were significantly more satisfied than the global score, and students from all minority ethnic backgrounds were significantly less satisfied than the global score.

14. For Teaching and learning, students from the EU and international students were significantly less satisfied than the global score. For Assessment and feedback, students from the EU were significantly less satisfied than the global score; however international students were significantly more satisfied.

15. The students with the highest satisfaction score were those undertaking historical and philosophical studies or physical sciences; the Overall satisfaction (question 22) was 88 per cent. Those studying creative arts and design gave the lowest score at 72 per cent.

16. Respondents studying for qualifications other than a first degree were more satisfied with Assessment and feedback than those studying for a first degree, and less satisfied with Organisation and management.


  1. The term 'significant' in this publication denotes statistical significance. Further details on when we consider a difference to be statistically significant can be found in paragraph 34.

Date: 1 July 2010

Ref: HEFCE 2010/18

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of universities in Northern Ireland

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Quality assurance and enhancement, Student services, Planning

Enquiries should be directed to:

Hannah White, tel 0117 931 7063, e-mail