A league table of how popular universities are with their graduates could be part of the new quality assurance regime. It would be published alongside reports from external examiners and internal departmental review documents.
Information would be gathered on skills gained by students, social life, accessibility of facilities and approachability of tutors.
Plans for a national survey of student feedback were agreed in principle at the final meeting of a group debating what information universities should make public. The group, chaired by Sir Ron Cooke, York University vice-chancellor, will commission consultants to draft proposals. The information is likely to be published in a form that will allow direct comparisons between universities.
The group has looked at the Australian model, where the Graduate Careers Council of Australia publishes the results of a "course experience questionnaire", in which students rate overall course satisfaction.
The Cooke group is inviting consultants to tender to conduct the survey, looking at the type and range of questions, the size of the sample group and publication. It has decided not to extend the Higher Education Statistics Agency's graduate destinations survey, which looks at employment and earnings six months after leaving university. A separate national survey will be devised and perhaps administered by professional pollsters.
The Cooke group also agreed to publish new-style reports from external examiners. There was vociferous hostility to publishing externals' reports in full. Instead, universities will be required to get their externals to verify the quality of courses.
It has also been agreed that universities will have to publish summaries of the results of five-yearly internal departmental quality assurance reviews.
The work by Sir Ron, knighted recently for services to higher education, is seen as a counterbalance to the concessions universities have won from the Quality Assurance Agency, which has drawn up plans to cut subject reviews in a new audit-based regime.
Higher education minister Margaret Hodge has delayed publication of the QAA's latest "operational model" as she wants to consider it alongside the Cooke group's recommendations, which will be finalised at the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Universities UK board meetings at the end of this month.