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Do student satisfaction surveys matter to postgraduate students?

University of Exeter Student satisfaction surveys, such as the National Student Survey (NSS), are often lauded as providing the real lowdown on how students feel about their university experience, by measuring final year students’ satisfaction with their university experience. But how relevant is the opinion of undergraduate students to postgraduate students?

What information can a postgraduate garner from the National Student Survey?

#1 Quality of department

A big part of the NSS is measuring how satisfied students are with their academic department, using a variety of factors, ranging from the enthusiasm of the staff to the clarity of the marking process. Although some universities are noted for having vastly superior postgraduate courses as compared to their undergraduate ones, as a rule of thumb you can expect students who were satisfied as undergraduates to be a good litmus test for how satisfied you may be as a postgraduate. For example, if a department scores very low for an element like feedback, that should be worrying for a potential postgraduate.

#2 Academic support

As a master’s student you will need to be in contact with members of staff on a regular and frequent basis, especially any supervisors you may have or administrators that are in charge of resources. If a department scored low for “I have been able to contact staff when I needed to.”, then that should raise flags. Ease of communication is likely to be similar for undergraduates and postgraduates, meaning that it’s a metric that you should pay attention to.

#3 Resources

Student satisfaction surveys

Research students need the lifeline of resources, and it’s an important element if you are studying for a taught master’s as well. Therefore if a student rates their library resources highly, you should feel encouraged. Equally, if students respond poorly to “I have been able to access specialised equipment, facilities or room when I needed to”’, then you should definitely do a little bit of investigation into the quality of resources available to postgraduates.

What about postgraduate student satisfaction surveys?

As well as the National students Survey there are numerous postgraduate student satisfaction surveys. Usually each university will have one in-house, that will be supplemented by two surveys ran by the higher Education Academic, namely the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) and the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES). The problem with postgraduate student satisfaction surveys is they tend to be answered less than the NSS, and not all universities tend to subscribe or support them.

The PRES and PTES are also not formulated for use as rankings, and it can be hard to find information of your particular institution and not just generic details about national levels. If you can find in-house information or your university has information on either the PTES or PRES, then use it. The information will undoubtedly be useful. if not, then try make do with the information that the NSS gives you.

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