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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

This letter provides information on the plans for the 2011 National Student Survey (NSS). Action is required by all institutions.

1.   This letter provides information on the actions institutions need to take to participate in the 2011 NSS. It also provides further information about outcomes from earlier surveys and general features of the survey.

2.   Details of plans for the 2011 NSS and the action required of all institutions are at Annex A for higher education institutions (HEIs) and Annexes B and C for further education colleges (FECs). The annexes can be read alongside this letter.

Actions for institutions

3.   All directly funded FECs and HEIs should review, and update if necessary, their relevant NSS contact details. This information should be supplied to Ipsos MORI by Friday 26 November 2010 using the 'HEI & FEC Details' form, which is available on the Ipsos MORI NSS extranet at note 1.

4.   All institutions should populate their 2011 NSS target lists with the requested contact details for students on these lists and supply them to Ipsos MORI by Friday 26 November 2010.

5.   Detailed instructions on how to supply this information are included in the NSS 2011 guidance for institutions, available from the Ipsos MORI NSS extranet. The guidance includes information regarding appropriate promotion of the survey.

Results of the 2010 NSS

6.   The 2010 NSS results have been published on the Unistats web-site,, with more detailed results available to institutions via the Ipsos MORI NSS results site, The results are once again very positive and demonstrate that universities and colleges provide a high-quality experience for their students. The overall satisfaction rate for 2010 was 82 per cent in England.

7.   Approximately 252,000 students completed the survey this year. This is an increase of approximately 30,000 respondents, and takes the response rate to over 63 per cent. A total of 152 HEIs and 113 FECs across the UK took part.

Analysis of the results

8.   This year, we have published an overview of the results from 2009 and a four-year time series, between 2006 and 2009, of the overall scores for the higher education sector ('National Student Survey: findings and trends 2006 to 2009', HEFCE 2010/18see note 2). We intend to publish these data annually, providing details of the satisfaction scores split by student and course characteristics. This report follows on from work carried out by Paula Surridge which considered the NSS results for the years 2005 to 2007see note 3.

NSS 2011

9.   The NSS will be repeated in 2011 across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and some institutions in Scotland, in collaboration with the National Union of Students. Ipsos MORI will continue to manage the survey process and the 2011 NSS will have a similar format and timetable to the 2010 survey.

10.   The survey questionnaire will remain the same for the 2011 NSS, so results can be directly compared to previous years. The additional banks of questions developed by Ipsos MORI and the Higher Education Academy can be used to make the survey more useful to institutions. As in 2010, institutions can choose up to a maximum of six banks of questions, from the total of 12. Institutions also have the opportunity to include up to two additional questions specific to their institution. We encourage institutions to make use of these facilities to maximise the usefulness of the NSS to them.

11.   Students on flexible programmes who are eligible to respond to the survey but who may not be in their final year of study will this year receive tailored messages regarding the NSS which more accurately reflects their participation in higher education. Also, Ipsos MORI will continue to facilitate a centrally managed incentive scheme on behalf of institutions to encourage students to take part in the survey.

12.   Ipsos MORI will liaise directly with its NSS contacts at institutions concerning further details of the 2011 NSS, options for timing, adding optional questions and for marketing materials. As with the 2010 survey, institutions will be able to select one of five starting weeks for their survey, between 10 January and 7 February 2011.

13.   As always, we thank all those responsible for the ongoing success of the NSS. It continues to be an invaluable tool in gathering students' views about their experience of higher education, and in helping institutions to continue to improve their provision according to their students' needs. We are committed to working with all our stakeholders for the 2011 survey to maintain an impressive response rate.

Yours sincerely

Sir Alan Langlands
Chief Executive


  1. This is a password-protected site and login details will be sent to NSS nominated contacts.
  2. All HEFCE publications are available.
  3. 'The National Student Survey 2005-2007: Findings and Trends' (July 2008).

Date: 26 October 2010

Ref: CL 25/2010

Enquiries should be directed to:

Katie Germer (tel 0117 931 7486, e-mail or Alison Felton (tel 0117 931 7078, e-mail