143,370 undergraduates give university life big thumbs-up

August 10, 2007

More students than ever are satisfied with their university experience, the results of this year's National Student Survey show, writes Rebecca Attwood.

Initial data indicate that students have given higher education a positive endorsement, with 81 per cent satisfied with the overall quality of their course. This is up from 80 per cent last year.

The response rate this year was 60 per cent, up from 56 per cent last year.

More than 177,000 students - a record number - from 147 universities and higher education colleges gave feedback for the survey, which will be published in full next month.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England confirmed that the minimum number of responses required for the results to be published has been reduced from 30 to 23 this year, as long as a minimum of 50 per cent of a cohort responded to the survey.

Reforms put out to consultation last year sought to reduce the threshold to 40 per cent, or 20 students, to allow more results to be published in greater detail, but the proposals met criticism from those who claimed this would increase the scope for "manipulation" of the results.

This summer, Hefce was forced to investigate claims that NSS results had been distorted after the president of the student law society at King's College London e'mailed members saying it would be "beneficial for any student looking to work in the legal profession to look kindly upon their university, as the more success King's has in the survey, the more employable King's graduates - that is you - become."

Publication of the full results, initially scheduled for early this month, has been delayed because of problems with the redesign of the Teaching Quality Information website. The site will now be launched under the name Unistats on September 12.

Some universities voiced concern that the data would not be available to students in time for the start of clearing, but Hefce, which commissioned the website, said that the results had been timed to coincide with the start of the new academic year.

A spokesman for Hefce said the delay to the website project, which is being managed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service and developed by Hotcourses, was to allow time for the website developers to respond to feedback.

"The data available on the site will be similar to last year, but the site has been developed to be much more user-friendly, particularly for prospective students, reflecting users' feedback and testing," he said.

"Hefce takes any possibility that manipulation of the survey is occurring seriously," the spokesman added. "We, and Ipsos MORI (the survey agency), do encourage institutions and/or student unions to e-mail their final- year students to encourage them to respond to the survey.

"However, at no time does the institution or the student union know who has or has not responded to the survey, which ensures they are not able to target specific students. Our experience tells us that institutions and student unions do not suggest how their students should respond as this would be counterproductive."

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