Postgraduate student survey piloted in England

Office for Students starts work on master’s version of National Student Survey

October 20, 2018
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England’s Office for Students will conduct a sample questionnaire of master’s students to inform its development of a postgraduate version of the National Student Survey.

The regulator has invited suppliers to apply to develop the questionnaire, its methodology and the data collection. It will then offer the survey to all universities and colleges in England with postgraduate taught programmes to circulate.

No individual higher education providers will be identified when the aggregate data is published in 2019, but the results of the sample will help the OfS to develop a regular, census-style survey of taught postgraduate students.

Sarbani Banerjee, head of student information at the OfS, told Times Higher Education that the survey would enable the OfS to gain a better picture of the experience of postgraduate taught students, because it had “become clear that the voice of postgraduate students does not feature as strongly as undergraduates in policymaking and at a strategic level in universities”.

“Obviously there is the NSS that captures the views of undergraduates and that’s used both by universities and colleges but also feeds into our own processes, in terms of the reviewing the conditions of registration – and by our partners across the UK,” Ms Banerjee said.

The plan is to set out some experimental models for the census-style postgraduate survey by January 2019 and then develop a formal feasibility survey.

“From the perspective of a regulator, we will need institutional-level data and we have said before that we will use surveys to inform our monitoring of conditions of registrations,” Ms Banerjee said. “We need an instrument that will help us to deliver that. This is informing how we might develop an instrument.”

“This is just a set of questions that we’re testing,” Ms Banerjee added. “We may find out that some of the things that we are testing will translate into a census survey, but some things won't.”   

Talk of an NSS-style postgraduate survey began under the OfS’ predecessor, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, but Ms Banerjee said that as a regulator, the OfS’ priorities were different.

“From our perspective, this work is driven by the fact that [taught postgraduate] students are also contributing to the cost of their higher education qualifications and should have the opportunity to feedback on their experience to the regulator,” she said.

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