The University of Nottingham has been announced 39th overall out of the 154 universities taking part in the National Student Survey (NSS). This is an increase that follows a general rise in satisfaction over the past ten years with higher education.

The NSS is a survey given to all graduates, and asks a series of questions about their experiences in the teaching and organisation of the University. Nottingham was one of the top universities in student satisfaction for Law graduates, however in NHS courses, such as nursing, it showed an overall decrease in satisfaction. Matt Styles, Education Officer of the Student’s Union, told Impact that this was “clearly a topic to be investigated.”

This is the first time that the survey has included a question on satisfaction with the SU. The result for Nottingham was positive; 71% of students said that they were satisfied with the Union, which is above the national average of 66%. Styles said this has set a “benchmark for future years.”

The survey is not just an indicator to prospective students of the strengths and weaknesses of the University, it is also an opportunity for the University, and now the Union, to self reflect. Professor Alan Ford, pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, said that “achieving strong and rising levels of student satisfaction through listening to our students and adapting our practices to their needs is an important means of producing educational excellence.”

This year also saw the development of a new database, Key Information Sets. This revamp of the Unistats website provides a detailed collation of information gathered in the NSS.

Some academics have speculated as to the negative affect that this data set will have in becoming the sole reference point for prospective students in making higher education choices.

The affect on universities may not be entirely positive either. Lancaster University’s assistant registrar, Adam Child, told the Times Higher Education Supplement that the KIS could be a potential distraction from other important ways of improving education. “If you put in place a measure and call it a ‘performance indicator’, people will feel the need to improve those scores even at the expense of other activities that will have a larger impact on student experience.”

However with 67% of graduates responding to the survey, it is has proven a popular method of holding universities to account, and is likely to continue to be the clearest indicator of student satisfaction with their institutions.

Emily Tripp

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