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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

1.   This letter announces the plans for the 2012 National Student Survey (NSS). Action is needed by all institutions by Friday 25 November 2011. It also provides further information about outcomes from earlier surveys and general features of the survey.

2.   Details of plans for the 2012 NSS and the action required are at Annex A for higher education institutions (HEIs), and Annexes B and C for further education colleges (FECs).

Actions for institutions

3.   All directly funded FECs and HEIs should review, and update if necessary, their relevant NSS institutional contact details. This information should be supplied to Ipsos MORI by Friday 25 November 2011 using the 'HEI & FEC Details' form, which is available on the Ipsos MORI NSS extranet. This is a password-protected site and login details will be sent to NSS nominated contacts by Ipsos MORI at the end of October.

4.   All institutions should populate their 2012 NSS target lists with the requested contact details for students on these lists and supply them to Ipsos MORI, also by Friday 25 November 2011.

5.   Instructions on how to supply this information are included in the NSS 2012 guidance for institutions, which will be available on the Ipsos MORI NSS extranet by the end of October. The guidance includes information regarding appropriate promotion of the survey.

Results of the 2011 NSS

6.   The 2011 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 2011 was 83 per cent in England.

7.   Approximately 265,000 students completed the survey this year. This is an increase of approximately 12,000 respondents, and takes the response rate to 65 per cent, the highest response rate the NSS has achieved in its seven years. A total of 153 HEIs and 99 FECs across the UK took part.

Publication of time series

8.   In April 2011, we published a five-year time series, covering the period between 2006 and 2010, of the overall scores for the higher education sector ('National Student Survey: findings and trends 2006 to 2010', HEFCE 2011/11). We intend to publish these data annually, providing details of satisfaction scores split by student and course characteristics.

NSS 2012

9.   The NSS will be repeated in 2012 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 2012 NSS will have a similar format and timetable to the 2011 survey.

10.   The survey questionnaire will remain the same for the 2012 NSS, except for the addition of an extra question on student satisfaction with the students’ union. HEPISG has agreed to the following question being added after the main body of questions:

Thinking of all the services, including support, activities and academic representation provided by the Students' Union at your institution, to what extent do you agree with the following statement:

'I am satisfied with the Students' Union at my institution'?

11.   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 on further details of the 2012 NSS, options for timing, adding optional questions and for marketing materials. As with the 2011 survey, institutions will be able to select one of five starting weeks for their survey, between 9 January and 6 February 2012.

13.   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 2012 survey to maintain an impressive response rate.

Yours sincerely

Sir Alan Langlands
Chief Executive

Date: 27 October 2011

Ref: Circular letter 25/2011

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

Of interest to those
responsible for:

The National Student Survey, Quality assurance and quality enhancement, The student experience, Planning