How would you change the National Student Survey?

Ahead of the annual Battle of Ideas Festival, we asked you to tell us what you think is missing from the country-wide canvassing of university student views

October 16, 2014

What question would you like to see added to the National Student Survey? That was the question we put to our Twitter followers last week as part of the build-up to the Institute of Ideas’ annual Battle of Ideas, which this year takes place in London on 18 and 19 October.

One of the sessions at the event, for which Times Higher Education is a media partner, looks at the importance of student satisfaction – so we thought it would be interesting to solicit your views, via the hashtag #MyNSS, on the issues you think the current survey overlooks.

Sarah Peat (@SarahOptimus), a research postgraduate at the University of Aberdeen’s School of Social Science, wanted to test what students look for in a higher education institution, asking “what is more influential to your overall [NSS] rating: academic or social (other) experiences?”

Stewart Eyres (@astrostewey), whose Twitter profile reveals that he is into “stars ‘n’ stuff”, wanted to find out how opinionated students are. “Do you actually care about the aspects you disagree with?” he asks, adding that he is “not sure” if students who say they disagree with some of the statements in the NSS – such as “the criteria used in marking have been clear in advance” – are genuinely dissatisfied, or not really that bothered.

Helen Matthews (@HMatthews67), a “university administrator, chartered manager, traveller”, wanted to know if students thought the NSS was “asking the right questions”, and @TrabiMechanic called for “something about a mutually supportive ethos among students”, which “often reflects whether course teams have fostered it or not”.

Maggie Garabedyan (@bsuacademic), vice-president of academic affairs at the University of Brighton Students’ Union, focused on assessment. “What is your preferred method of receiving your feedback and why?” was her suggested question, while Becka (@veggieg3ek) thought there was much to learn about how the information might best be used. “What would you do with the data obtained in this survey” was her recommendation.

@PigB0dine, a self-declared “excitable chap”, “rat fancier” and “gin fiend” was thinking big, proposing to give students the chance to respond to the statement “Overall, I am satisfied that the years of my life given up for this course were a sound investment of time”. Meanwhile, academic Peter Hughes (@sgwarnog) wanted to ask whether students felt that members of university staff knew their names.

While Rachel Forsyth (@rmforsyth), from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, wanted to know if students felt that lecturers “enjoy teaching me”, John Boursnell’s question (@johnboursnell) had a slightly different tone. “Do you think senior management bully students and staff?” was his suggested NSS addition.

Tanya Osborne’s question (@_TK_O) was elegantly simple: “Why are you filling in this survey?” She added, however, that it would need to be multiple choice to make sure “to filter out the poor souls who answer under duress”.

Ms Osborne’s question was judged to be the best by THE editorial staff, and she won a pair of tickets to the Battle of Ideas.

Send links to topical, insightful and quirky online comment by and about academics to chris.parr@tesglobal.com

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