A regional look at overall satisfaction scores from NSS 2015

Results for the 2015 National Student Survey were released by HEFCE on 12 August.  This annual survey assesses students’ perceptions of teaching quality and covers final year undergraduates studying for HE qualifications in the UK.

London Higher has been analysing some of the results, and my blog this week looks at these from a regional and London perspective.  Thanks to my colleague, Paresh Shah, for his work.

Overall satisfaction scores

For students from English HE providers (HEPs), there was found to be a high overall satisfaction score of 86% despite this being the first cohort to have loans of up to £9,000 per year in tuition fees.  As a side note, the NUS found 56% of graduates believed their degrees were not worth the cost of their tuition fees.

A table for ‘Overall satisfaction’ NSS scores was published in Times Higher based on HEFCE results for the 160 HE providers in the UK (excluding Further Education Colleges).

From this table, we can see the first 20 places (ranks 1 to 13) were dominated by HEPs which are either small specialists, campus-based or are located in well-defined areas in a city or town.

Of the three London HEPs in the Top 20, The Courtauld Institute of Art and The Conservatoire for Dance and Drama are small creative specialists (note also The Conservatoire is formed of eight schools, two of which are based outside London), and The Royal Veterinary College is a campus-based HEP in outer London.  Royal Holloway, University of London, was the highest placed multi faculty HEP and is a campus-based institution just outside the M25 motorway.

From the data for 160 HEPs, the mean overall satisfaction score was 85.9% and the median was 86.0%, indicating the spread of overall satisfaction scores was symmetrical around 86%, as the two measures are identical.

London and other UK regions

For regional comparisons, each HEP was assigned to one of 13 UK regions and The Open University was included as a separate entity.  Of the 36 HEPs in London region, two had overall scores equal to the median of 86%, 13 had scores greater than the median and 21 had scores less than the median.

A regional breakdown showed means for satisfaction scores varied between a low of 84% for London, Wales and the S. West, and 91% for N. Ireland (Figure 1 in this PDF of Excel charts).

Box whisker plots (Figure 2) indicated London and Wales had the lowest regional median scores (83%) compared with other UK regions, and HEPs in London exhibited a wider spread of scores (Figure 3).

Finally, classifying 34 of the 36 HEPs in London by average student entry tariff points demonstrated a greater variation in overall satisfaction scores for creative specialists compared with other HEPs (Figure 4).

There was a trend for decreasing median satisfaction scores from HEPs with high entry tariff points to lower tariff points.  Overall satisfaction scores for HEPs with high entry tariff points (largely Russell Group universities) were not much different to HEPs with medium tariff entry points or HEPs classed as ‘Other Specialist’ (Figure 4 and Table 1).

Table 1: Summary scores for HEPs in London by student entry tariff points

 Average student entry tariff points
Satisfaction ScoreHighMediumLowCreative SpecialistOther Specialist
no. HEPs567106


Discussion and Conclusions

Results for the majority of Londons’ HEPs may seem to be disappointing and lower than expected, but similar trends have been seen from previous NSS results.

The underlying reasons leading to low overall satisfaction scores is an area which London Higher is examining and would like to explore much further.  The NSS covers areas such as teaching quality, student engagement, learning resources and personal development.

It may be academic support is easier to achieve in small or campus-based HEPs, and only a minority of institutions in London have a ‘traditional’ campus setting. It might also be that views about other issues impacting on the wider student experience which we know are a concern to London students, such as costs of living, ‘spill over’ into responses to this survey.

The current analysis is a simplistic comparison between HEPs based on a league table where ‘the majority of results are not materially different’ (p. 58, Review of the National Student Survey, HEFCE, 2014).  Further studies will attempt to compare HEPs by using the benchmarks provided, and also evaluate scores for selected subject areas between institutions.

Finally, if the NSS is to feature as part of the TEF, then it is essential that several concerns about the survey questions need to be addressed.

Contact: paresh.shah@londonhigher.ac.uk

Note: Excel does not produce Box-Whisker charts but a guide for doing this can be found at: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/boxandwhisker-charts-for-excel.html