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UK Postgraduate Rankings: The National Student Survey

University of Exeter The National Student Survey (NSS) was launched in 2005. It is a survey that is conducted on final year degree students in publicly funded universities the UK. The NSS asks final year students to provide their personal opinion on the quality of their degree course.

What Makes The National Student Survey A Good Source Of Ranking Data?

What makes it a good source is that it expresses students’ opinions rather than professional opinions, which means you can get the students’ perspective on a university. It is carried out every year and includes all higher educational establishments in the UK. This means that each year postgraduate students can use the NSS to see how other fellow students rated a university that they may be considering applying to.

How is The Survey Carried Out?

The contact details of all final year students are supplied to the NSS researchers by the universities that they attend, and the survey organisers then contact students in January and February of their final year.

Contact is at first made by an email that invites students to take part in the survey, which is completed online. If students do not wish to take part in the survey then they have the option to opt out. However in order to reduce the non-response bias of the survey those who do not reply to the email or opt out of the survey are then followed up either by telephone or post. This is so the national survey can collect information from as many students as they possibly can.

The survey consists of 23 questions that relate to a number of different aspects of the student experience – these are:

1.    Teaching on the course.
2.    Assessment and feedback received.
3.    Academic support
4.    Organisation and management
5.    Learning resources
6.    Personal development
7.    Overall satisfaction
8.    Students' union or Guild)

The data that is supplied from participants in the survey is then analysed and made publicly available on the Unistats website .

From September 2012 the results of the NSS has been made available in a number of other ways:

•    There is widgets on the pages of higher education websites and these widgets contain information from the NSS about the course that person is currently viewing.
•    The Unistats website will become unavailable, instead a new website will be launched, which will allow users to search and compare results.
•    Users of the UCAS course finder are able to see information collected from the survey.

Advantages Of The NSS

•    The results are from real students so you get a good insight into a university from a student’s point of view.
•    It is carried out every year so it’s kept up to date.
•    The survey gathers data on a number of different aspects of higher education.
•    The response rate is over 50% for all higher education institutions.

Disadvantages Of The NSS

•    The survey is conducted on final year undergraduate students. This may not be that useful for prospective postgraduate students as it doesn’t really give any insight into postgraduate life.
•    Although the NSS tries to get as many students as possible to complete it, not all do as it is optional. This means that not all students have expressed their views.
•    It focuses on the academic experience so doesn’t really provide much insight into what life at a university is actually like.

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