NSS - Frequently asked questions

Who runs the National Student Survey?

The National Student Survey is commissioned by the Office for Students, and is conducted on their behalf by Ipsos MORI.  

When does the NSS take place?

The survey opens in mid January and closes in mid April, however each University chooses the week in which survey promotion will start at their institution (five possible weeks from early January).

Who is eligible to take part?

Please see the webpage on eligibility.

When do we get the results?

The quantitative results from the main question set are released at the end of July, as an official statistic they are released to institutions and the general public at the same time.   

The qualitative results (student comments) and quantitative results from the optional additional question sets are also released at the end of July to each instution and are not in the public domain.

What happens with joint students’ responses?

FPE stands for full-person-equivalent. Student numbers have been reported as full-person-equivalents i.e. a student studying a joint honours course is split evenly across the two subjects of qualification aim. Thus each respondent (regardless of whether full-time of part-time) always counts as a total of one across the analysis.

How are the measures in the results calculated?

Calculation of % agree scores: this is the combined percentage of students responding “Definitely Agree” and “Mostly Agree” (5 and 4 on the 1-5 scale).

The count of responses shown for ‘Definitely agree’ through to ‘Definitely Disagree’ sometimes exceed the total number of respondents shown. Why is this?

This occurs when you view results for the groups of questions (e.g. The teaching on my course). Here, the count for example, for “Definitely Agree”, is the total number of responses for ‘Definitely Agree’ across all questions within the group of questions. The “Number of Respondents” (headcount and fpe), is the total number of respondents to the questionnaire and is constant for each individual cohort. Hence, for a group of questions, the sum of the counts will exceed the “Number of Respondents” shown.

What are the publication thresholds?

A combined threshold of at least 10 respondents and 50% response rate applies to the data publicly available. Thresholds are based on absolute student headcounts (not FPEs). These thresholds are set by the Office for Students for the purpose of ensuring that the survey data published is useful to the user institutions.  A single threshold of 10 or more respondents applies to the data released to institutions for their internal use only, this includes the student comments.

Why do the headcount and/or response rate figures sometimes differ from those shown on the response rate reports during the fieldwork period of the NSS?

a) The default reporting of the data should be against the institution at which a student is taught (rather than registered) in order to correspond with Unistats’ publication of the results.

b) After the fieldwork period closes, students which are determined to be ineligible for the NSS by the Office for Students are removed from the dataset. This may therefore affect cohort sizes and response rates reported in the final data.