NSS results have little impact on university applications, study finds

Research by LSE academics shows that league tables have more impact on demand for competitive subjects

October 27, 2015
University students queuing

Student satisfaction scores have only a minor impact on the demand for university courses, a recent study has found.

A paper looking at data from the National Student Survey (NSS) and on applications to undergraduate degrees finds that while universities’ student satisfaction scores do have “a small statistically significant effect” on applications, the effect of changes in scores on demand, from year to year, is “quite small”.

An institution moving from the bottom of the scale (around a 65 per cent NSS satisfaction score) to the top of the scale (around 95 per cent satisfaction) results in a degree course gaining only about seven more applicants for every 100 it already receives, according to Stephen Gibbons, professor of economic geography and environment at the London School of Economics (LSE) and co-author of the report.

The study, entitled “Student satisfaction, league tables and university applications: evidence from Britain”, finds that the impact of NSS scores is mainly attributable to the influence on a university’s position in other subject-specific league tables, which include student satisfaction as one of its indicators, such as The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide. It suggests this reflects the “greater salience of league tables” in that they are “visible, readily available and, on account of the way in which universities and subject-departments are compared on an ordinal rank scale, easy to understand”.

Even so, it claims the change in demand related to the Good University Guide, which it focuses on in the study, is “not large”.

“A 10 percentile move up the table rankings increases demand by around 2 per cent,” it says. “One possible explanation is that students already have well-developed knowledge about aspects of product quality which are meaningful to them in higher education markets and therefore the impact of additional information is correspondingly limited.”

The research also finds that the impact of quality indicators in league tables is strongly influenced by the number of providers in a particular subject or geographical area; rankings have more impact on applications for subjects taught at a greater number of universities.

“High-ability candidates are also more responsive to league tables, possibly as a result of their wider choice set,” it adds.

ellie.bothwell@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: NSS has little impact on applications: study

Reader's comments (1)

Good to know. My former university thought NSS was such a huge deal.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Microlight pilot flies with flock of cranes

Reports of UK-based researchers already thinking of moving overseas after Brexit vote

Portrait montage of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage

From Donald Trump to Brexit, John Morgan considers the challenges of a new international political climate