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Executive summary

Purpose

1. This report describes the findings of a research study to inform the review of the National Student Survey (NSS). The research consisted of running a pilot questionnaire with students who had completed the main NSS.  The pilot combined existing NSS questions with new and revised questions developed as part of the review. The aim was to examine whether the questions were valid and reliable across a range of students, provision and institution types.

2. As the research focuses solely on testing the robustness of the questions, the actual student responses have not been analysed.

3. This report is part of a series of reports published as part of the review of information. 

Key points

4. Over 16,500 students participated in the pilot project, providing a representative sample of the students who participated in the main 2015 survey.

5. All questions were broadly understood by participants and no significant differences in understanding were found when analysed against different characteristics (disability, ethnicity, institution type, gender and subject). However, a small number of questions displayed higher use of the ‘Neither agree not disagree’ and ‘Not applicable’ responses. The reasons behind this should be considered further.

6. A negatively worded question was included in the pilot to assess the feasibility of using such questions to test whether students are considering their answers, as previous HEFCE analysis of the NSS shows an increasing proportion of students providing the same answer for all questions (known as ‘acquiescence bias’ or ‘yea-saying’). This question was the least well understood, albeit at a low proportion of 0.7 per cent responding ‘I do not understand the question’.

7. The extent of yea-saying in the pilot was examined both including and excluding the negatively worded question, and in both cases found to be lower than in the main NSS.

Action required

8. No action is required.

Date: 1 October 2015

Ref: HEFCE 2015/25

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of universities in Northern Ireland
Heads of higher education institutions in Scotland; Heads of higher education institutions in Wales; Heads of further education colleges in Wales; Heads of alternative providers in England; Heads of student unions and guilds at UK institutions; Student union officers and student representatives; Employer bodies; Professional, statutory and regulatory bodies; Other bodies with an interest in information about higher education; Careers advisers; Schools, sixth form colleges and their representative bodies; Other bodies and individuals involved in supplying advice and guidance to prospective higher education students

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Student information; Quality assurance; Admissions; Liaison with schools and colleges; Widening participation and marketing

Enquiries should be directed to:

Noel Helliwell, tel 0117 930 7365, email n.helliwell@hefce.ac.uk