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The National Student Survey: "More important now than ever"

9 February 2012

UCL staff should encourage students to complete the National Student Survey (NSS*) as this year’s results are likely to make more of an impact on application numbers than ever before, Academic Support has advised.

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Following rule changes by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), from autumn 2012 all universities will have to publish a Key Information Set (KIS), which will include NSS results, in their prospectuses. Universities will also be required to install a widget on their webpages linking to a site that allows users to compare different institutions’ key information and data. This site will also be linked to from the UCAS course finder.

NSS results were until now mainly available through the Unistats website, but HEFCE’s changes will make the information far more visible to future prospective students.

However, no matter how high the scores are, results are only published for those courses obtaining a response rate of 50% or more, which not all departments at UCL achieve.

Rob Traynor, quality assurance officer and secretary of UCL’s NSS Steering Group, says: “Traditionally, top Russell Group universities tend to get a lower response rate than newer universities. The highest response rate we’ve ever achieved has been 58%, and we need to aim to beat that this year because the NSS will be much more high-profile from now on.”

So, what is UCL doing to promote NSS completion among students? “Each department has an NSS liaison officer (NSSLO) who is sent a toolkit containing publicity materials and advice, regular response rate updates and top tips to encourage participation,” says Traynor. “All we can ask of students is that they give honest feedback and tell them that it genuinely does make a difference.”

Examples of the differences previous surveys (along with data from the Student Barometer and departmental questionnaires) have helped to effect include the enhanced personal tutor system and the implementation of service standards surrounding assessment and feedback.

A particular star in Traynor’s mind is the Slade School of Fine Art, where NSSLO David Burrows increased the response rate from one of the lowest at UCL to nearly 90% in 2010. When asked what his secret was, Burrows said he simply emphasised the survey’s importance in regular reminders to his students.

The message is clear: explaining to students that their participation in the NSS will make a real difference to the future of UCL and encouraging them to fill it in is key to increasing response rates and, ultimately, ensuring that the university continues to achieve its impressive application figures. To find out more, contact Rob Traynor (

Students have until April 30th to complete the NSS. Results will be available in September.

Useful links:

*The NSS is a 22-question survey sent out to all final-year undergraduate students which asks them about their time at university.

Page last modified on 09 feb 12 10:52

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