Undergraduate satisfaction has held steady despite the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees in England, according to the 2015 National Student Survey.
Eighty-six per cent of the more than 300,000 final-year undergraduates who responded to this year’s survey said that they were satisfied with their UK higher education experience, the same as the 2014 results.
Levels of dissatisfaction and strong dissatisfaction were also unchanged, at 5 per cent and 2 per cent respectively. Another 7 per cent were neither happy nor unhappy with their experience.
This year’s results are the first to include undergraduates who paid higher tuition fees, which were introduced in England in 2012. The overall satisfaction score for England only was also unchanged, at 86 per cent.
Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of Universities UK, said that the maintaining of record levels of satisfaction was “testament to the hard work of university staff”.
“The shift in England from public funding to increased fees means that students are understandably, and rightly, demanding more from their university courses,” Ms Dandridge said. “Universities are responding to this and are also improving the amount of information to students about courses to ensure that their experience matches their expectations.”
The most highly rated university in this year’s NSS, excluding small and specialist institutions, was Keele University, which scored 95 per cent overall, up two percentage points.
The universities of Essex, East Anglia and Surrey all scored 92 per cent.
Jules Pretty, Essex’s deputy vice-chancellor, said: “Student expectations are higher than ever before and universities with consistently strong NSS results such as Essex are showing they are meeting those expectations.”
Ravensbourne, excluded from the tables compiled by Times Higher Education as a small, specialist institution, recorded the biggest improvement in performance of any institution, raising its score by 12 percentage points to 80 per cent.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England, which helps to fund the NSS, cautioned that the survey measured students’ perceptions of quality, not value for money.
Approximately one-third of the respondents from English higher education courses were studying under the old charging regime that existed before the introduction of £9,000 fees.
A survey of 15,129 students that was conducted earlier this year by the Higher Education Policy Institute and the Higher Education Academy found that, while 87 per cent of respondents were fairly or very satisfied with their course, 34 per cent of students in England felt that they received poor or very poor value for money.
One trend that remains clear in the NSS is that some Russell Group institutions do not live up to their elite status in the survey.
Of the 24 institutions that scored 90 per cent or more, nine are in the Russell Group and 15 are medium-sized or campus-based universities. Six Russell Group institutions have below-average scores, including University College London, the London School of Economics and King’s College London.
This is significant since the NSS results are likely to figure as a key measure in the teaching excellence framework, to be used to decide which institutions will be allowed to increase their tuition fees for 2017-18.
Adam Child, senior policy and strategy officer at Lancaster University, who has studied the NSS, said that the survey remained a “convenient proxy” for teaching quality while new metrics are developed.
“The Russell Group are not necessarily performing as well as they should,” he added.
Students remain significantly more satisfied with the teaching on their course, giving this an 87 per cent score, than with assessment and feedback, which was rated at 73 per cent.
Who floats students’ boat? Risers and fallers
Source: National Student Survey 2015, excluding small and specialist institutions