UCL News


How to increase your department's response rates in student surveys

19 November 2015

The annual Student Barometer survey closes this Friday 27 November, and UCL is lagging behind the rest of the sector's 19% response rate at just 9%.

Student surveys We know that when more students complete the survey, our information is more accurate and we can help improve UCL for everyone. So how can departments improve their response rates, and what do you need to know?

How can students take the survey?

All students, from first year undergraduates to final year PhD students, receive an email from 'UCL Student Surveys' inviting them to take part, which includes their own personalised link. A personal link decreases the length of the survey as it already includes their details, such as course, year of study and location. Students first received the email on 2 November, and reminders are also sent weekly.

Why are the response rates low?

Student numbers have grown from 32,000 last year to over 40,000 this year, which makes reaching all of them even more difficult! We put a lot of demands on students' time, especially through email, and it can be difficult to ask them to prioritise this survey over the many other emails they receive. That's where departments can really help.

We have run a new campaign which you can see around the campus and on our website, improved the emails that the students receive, are offering a generous prize draw and are working with all 77 departments, the nine faculties, the Students' Union, social media and central services to encourage students to take part.

How can we increase our response rates?

Emails from the 'centre' only have a limited impact, and we know from the NSS that the most effective method of increasing survey responses is if students are asked to take the survey by someone they know. That's where departments can help:

  • Ask your course directors or department heads to email every student on their programme explaining the benefits of the survey, as students are most likely to open emails from them.
  • Peer encouragement is also very effective, so ask your student academic representatives (StARs) to speak to or email their peers.
  • Some departments incentivise their students to take part in the survey. In the National Student Survey, many departments match the centre's contribution when they reach their target response rate. Others ask their Staff-Student Committee representatives to email all their peers.
  • Last year in the NSS, the School of Architecture held an event in a computer cluster and provided free pizza! The Slade provides cake, and others give away free printer credits.
  • You could also display our digital images, put up posters and advertise the survey on your departmental webpage. Email student.surveys@ucl.ac.uk if you haven't received these materials.

Any tips for writing to students?

Keep it short, stick to the message and highlight the benefits. Tell them how (follow the link in their email), when (before next Friday 27th November) and why. They could win £1,000 or one of 30 Amazon vouchers up to £100, but more importantly their responses lead to real changes at UCL. You could tell them about local changes made within your department as a result of surveys, as well as things we've done at UCL (such as extend library opening hours, build new study spaces, launched a project to improve the timetable and started a group to look at the issues around student accommodation).

Where can I find out more?

There are more details here about how some departments achieved very good response rates in the NSS last year. You can also visit our student surveys webpage or email the team at student.surveys@ucl.ac.uk.