National Student Survey 2023: which university performed best?

Following the removal of a question on overall satisfaction, Times Higher Education analysed the results to produce an overall ‘positivity measure’

August 11, 2023
University of St Andrews
Source: iStock

Students at the University of St Andrews are more positive about their courses than those at any other large UK institution, analysis reveals.

The latest version of the annual National Student Survey (NSS) omitted a key question on how satisfied students in England are with the quality of their course, making it difficult to compare all UK institutions against one another overall.

However, the updated survey uses the same measure across the 26 questions asked of all UK undergraduates to determine how positive they are about their studies.

And analysis by Times Higher Education reveals that the University of St Andrews had an 87 per cent positivity measure across all questions – the best score of all UK providers with at least 1,000 responses.

It was closely followed by the University of West London, which was the top provider in England with a positivity measure of 86 per cent.

Meanwhile, Aberystwyth University (85 per cent) was the best ranked provider in Wales, and the University of Ulster (83 per cent) the best in Northern Ireland.

The questions which were answered by all students cover seven different themes: teaching, learning opportunities, assessment and feedback, academic support, organisation and management, learning resources, and student voice.

St Andrews had the best results in 11 of the 26 questions and across four of the seven themes – doing particularly well in the areas of teaching (90 per cent), learning opportunities (89 per cent), academic support (94 per cent) and organisation and management (88 per cent).

RankProviders with at least 1,000 responsesOverall positivity rate, %

Despite St Andrews’ success, THE’s analysis suggests that Scotland on the whole had a lower positivity rate than the other parts of the UK, at 79 per cent.

This was compared with 81.6 per cent for Northern Ireland, 79.8 per cent for England and 79.1 per cent for Wales.

The analysis suggests students are most positive about teaching staff’s ability to explain things, and library resources – both getting an average score of 90 per cent across all large providers.

By contrast, just 61 per cent of students expressed positivity about student feedback being acted on.

And with a score of just 41 per cent, this rate was lowest of all institutions at the University of Oxford.

This year’s NSS, which was open to students mid-January until the end of April, saw 339,000 students participate across 528 higher education providers.

The 71.5 per cent response rate was up from 68.6 per cent in 2022.

Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK, said the results of the survey demonstrated universities’ ability to consistently deliver high-quality teaching that meets the needs and ambitions of students.

“Students have faced unprecedented challenges in recent years, but it is welcome to see the consistent focus of universities and their excellent staff on delivering quality learning recognised, with the majority of students feeling positive about their experience,” she said.

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Reader's comments (11)

NSS is a poor comparative measure of university 'performance'
That depends entirely on how one defines "performance". What the NSS does is ask final year undergraduates about their experience. That generally provides a wealth of information for universities to use to identify issues and drive improvement, particularly valuable for those universites that don't have the resources to run their own internal surveys. It might not be sufficient in isolation, but students' own experience of university has to be a feature of any credible measure of "performance", doesn't it?
Yes the NSS is a waste of time notice how the crappy Universities come out top because they tell their students they are all wonderful and give out high grades left right and centre. They also probably experts at getting them to fill in NSS in a certain way.
Maybe the 'crappy' universities are all teaching everything in person compared to the Russell group universities taking in far too many students and putting them in either satellite rooms or teaching over MS Teams... thats why the students are happier and more satisfied. It could also be that the 'crappy' universities have not been on strike most of the year.
How are you defining "crappy"? And how do you actually know what goes on in these "crappy" universities?
And by the way how can Cambridge and Oxford justify the extra government spedning they get due to their tutorial system when they are ranking so low in the NSS????????
They should run a National Staff survey that would make for interesting reading.
Have they made a mistake and printed the rankings in reverse order? It would make a lot more sense
Are you able to share the methodology behind the analysis and the "overall" measure?
LCA London? What is that? And where is Leeds Arts University, Norwich Uni of the Arts, Arts Uni Plymouth and Arts Uni Bournemouth....actual universities
Hi Respectfully I am Dr. Ahmad Nameni from IUST. I want to know how the index: "Student satisfaction" is considered in the universities ranking? I will be very thankful If I receive your respond.