Bias? Clue's in the question

March 3, 2011

London-based institutions perform poorly in your Student Experience Survey ("Taking everything into consideration", 17 February). St George's, University of London does best (th); next is Royal Holloway, University of London (53rd); while 13 of the bottom 30 places, including the entire bottom seven, are filled by universities in the capital.

Although you claim to have minimised the survey's potential for bias, some of your questions appear strongly prejudiced against London-based institutions.

For example, the cost of living in the capital is significantly higher than elsewhere in the UK, so your question about students' experience of "cheap shop/bar/amenities" would almost certainly receive negative answers. However, all this does is confirm information that students already know before they start studying; it does not necessarily record anything about course satisfaction.

Satisfaction is more closely related to how well outcomes are in line with expectations. Therefore, a better question would be: "How strongly do you agree that your university offers the following: shop/bar/amenities with costs in line with what you expected?"

Ben Atkinson, Hertfordshire

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