National Student Survey 2018: big names take hit as boycott fades

Most universities omitted after the boycott are back in for this year’s NSS, although Cambridge and Oxford still fail to feature

July 27, 2018

Several leading universities have been hit by a significant drop in their scores in the UK’s National Student Survey, as others re-entered after a boycott that forced their omission last year.

More than 320,000 graduates completed the 2018 survey, up from about 300,000 last year, when the National Union of Students targeted the exercise in a bid to damage the teaching excellence framework, which uses NSS scores for some of its core metrics.

This year’s results, published on 27 July, indicate that the boycott has largely faded away. This year, 70 per cent of eligible students completed the survey, up from 68 per cent 12 months ago.

In 2017, 12 universities failed to achieve the required response rate of 50 per cent and were therefore omitted. Nine are back this year, including UCL, King’s College London, and the universities of Bristol, Sheffield and Manchester.

However, the UK’s most prestigious institutions, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, still failed to feature.

Across the UK, overall satisfaction slipped by 1 percentage point to 83 per cent. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of England’s Office for Students, said that the data was positive but “shows that there is more work to be done”.

Click here for full National Student Survey 2018 results

Some big-name universities saw their scores take a significant hit this year. The University of Edinburgh had one of the largest declines in overall satisfaction, falling from 83 per cent to 77 per cent and leaving it at the lower end of the table.

The London School of Economics remained the lowest-scoring comprehensive university, as its overall rating dropped further from 74 per cent to 71 per cent.

Dame Minouche Shafik, LSE’s director, said that the institution had “introduced significant reforms across campus but we know it will take time before these changes are reflected in the NSS”.

“We are listening to our students and we are more motivated than ever to improve their experience at LSE. Improving student satisfaction is our top priority,” she said.

Overall satisfaction dropped by 4 per cent at Durham University, the University of East Anglia and Queen’s University Belfast, as well as at Loughborough University and Harper Adams University.

Among major providers, the most highly rated institution this year was the University of St Andrews, which received an overall score of 94 per cent. The University of Buckingham got 91 per cent, while Keele and Aberystwyth universities were tied on 90 per cent.

Apart from the LSE, other providers with low scores, excluding small and specialist institutions, included Edinburgh Napier University (74 per cent) and the universities of Westminster, Cumbria and Suffolk (all 75 per cent).

Across England, the average overall satisfaction score dropped from 84 per cent to 83 per cent. In Wales, overall scores rose from 84 per cent to 85 per cent. Scotland dropped from 85 per cent to 83 per cent, while Northern Ireland fell from 85 per cent to 84 per cent.

Across the UK, satisfaction with teaching remained relatively high, at 84 per cent, but assessment and feedback remained one of the lowest-scoring areas, at 73 per cent.

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