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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

National Student Survey 2018: Publication of data

1. This letter provides information on the timetable for institutions to be able to access their 2018 National Student Survey (NSS) results via the data dissemination portal, and also the publication of NSS data on the Unistats website.

2. From 1 April 2018, the Office for Students (OfS) will take on responsibility for activities associated with the NSS. HEFCE does not expect this transfer to affect the provision of services related to the NSS or the timetable set out in this letter.

3. The timetable for access and publication of NSS 2018 data is as follows.


2018 NSS results

2018 Unistats website

27 July

Stage 1

Institutions are able to access overall institution-level and subject-level question responses and open text comments, via the data dissemination portal.


3 August

Stage 2

Institutions are able to access all institutions’ NSS results at institutional and subject level via the data dissemination portal.

Access to the OfS public dataset via the data dissemination portal is also available under embargo.


8 August

The OfS will publish 2018 NSS public dataset on its website.


8 to 22 August


NSS course-level data will be available to view on the Unistats preview site.

30 August


Course-level NSS 2018 data goes live on Unistats.

4. All NSS data is subject to strict embargo until midnight on Tuesday 7 August 2018.

5. To view further information about the NSS 2018 data dissemination portal, visit Further technical information on the dissemination portal release will be made available in the forthcoming NSS results website newsletter issued by Texuna to NSS contacts in April 2018.

NSS dissemination site

6. Following the completion of an open tender exercise in early 2018, HEFCE has reappointed Texuna as the supplier of the NSS data dissemination portal. Texuna will be in touch with existing institutional contacts to request that contact details are confirmed or updated as appropriate, ahead of NSS 2018 data dissemination. Ensuring that these details are up to date will help to facilitate timely access to the dissemination portal for NSS 2018.

Publication of static reports

7. From time to time, the underlying dataset for the dissemination portal may be subject to minor changes. This is generally a consequence of amendments to that dataset being implemented throughout the year. While the underlying dataset on which custom reporting is based will be kept up to date to reflect any such changes, the static reports available via the dissemination portal will not be updated in instances where these changes are minor. Static reports should therefore be understood to capture a snapshot of the data, correct at the time of publication.

Higher Education Classification of Subjects

8. A new subject coding system, Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECOS), has been developed to replace the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS). Further details of this coding system can be found on the HESA website. HECOS will be adopted by UCAS from May 2018, ready for 2019 entrants. To provide consistency for prospective students, the UK funding bodies will begin to use the Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) to present data on Unistats from September 2018. The CAH will also be used for the data we publish publicly for NSS 2018. The CAH has been developed to allow for the mapping of both JACS codes and the new HECoS codes onto a common structure.

9. To provide consistency for the sector and the public, our approach to integrating this coding system with NSS data dissemination will be to implement a transitional phase. During this time, we will present subject groups in our public data as well as in the dissemination portal using both the CAH and the current NSS subject groupings. This will include data from 2017, and will continue forward for at least an additional two years, after which we will take a decision on whether we should present data solely using CAH on the dissemination portal.

Data on franchised providers in Scotland and Northern Ireland

10. In 2017 HEFCE’s press data publication included UK-wide NSS results, both for the institution at which a student is ‘registered’, and the institution where they are ‘taught’. For NSS 2018, we have agreed with the UK funding bodies that we will exclude colleges in Scotland and Northern Ireland from ‘taught’ provider data in instances where higher education level provision is offered via franchise arrangements on behalf of higher education institutions. Because colleges in Northern Ireland and Scotland do not routinely participate in the NSS other than through this kind of arrangement, and because the number of students represents a small proportion of the colleges’ wider cohort, we will attribute their students to the data for the institution at which they are registered. This decision affects four colleges in Scotland and two in Northern Ireland.

Evaluation of the implementation of NSS 2017

11. The UK funding bodies are currently in the process of evaluating NSS 2017 to ascertain how the new survey has worked in practice and to pick up on any emergent issues during the implementation process.

12. The evaluation commenced in early 2017 with an online student experience questionnaire offered to students as an optional follow-up survey once they had completed NSS 2017. A total of 84,435 students responded to the questionnaire. An online questionnaire was also made available to institutions, via the NSS contacts, during summer 2017. There were 113 higher education providers that responded to the institutional survey. This first stage demonstrated that the survey was broadly well received and broadly implemented without problems. The full report detailing the findings from the student and institutional online surveys will be published shortly.

13. A second stage of institutional evaluation is planned for autumn 2018, when institutions have seen their NSS 2018 results and are able to assess the impact of the changes made as a result of the 2017 survey findings.

Further information

14. If you have any queries regarding the release and publication of the NSS results, please contact HEFCE (email For the 2018 NSS results portal, contact Texunatech (email For Unistats data collection queries, higher education institutions, Welsh further education institutes and alternative providers should contact the Higher Education Statistics Agency (email, tel 0124 221 1144), and English further education colleges should contact HEFCE (email

15. Should you have any other queries about the content of this letter please contact Davina Benton, tel 0117 931 7480, email

16. Finally, on behalf of the UK higher education funding bodies, may I take the opportunity to thank you for your continuing support in ensuring the successful running of the NSS.

Yours sincerely

Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive

Date: 27 March 2018

Ref: Circular letter 04/2018

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

Of interest to those
responsible for:

The National Student Survey, Quality assessment and learning and teaching development, Planning, The student experience

Enquiries should be directed to:

Davina Benton, tel 0117 931 7480, email