Drop in student satisfaction rates

Half of the UK’s universities and colleges have seen a fall in the proportion of students that say they are happy with their experience of higher education, figures show.

The latest National Student Survey (NSS) reveals that the overall percentage of students who are satisfied with their course and institution has fallen for the second year in a row.

In total, 83% said they were content with their higher education experience, down from 84% last year.

A Press Association analysis of the data shows that of the 348 universities and colleges for which there are comparable figures for 2017 and 2018, 51% have seen a fall in overall satisfaction, while two in five (41%) saw a rise.

Some 8% saw no change in satisfaction rates.

The figures, published by the Office for Students (OfS), are based on the views of more than 320,000 students – mainly final-year undergraduates, and cover universities and colleges that offer higher education courses.

Last year, just over 300,000 took part amid a boycott of the survey co-ordinated by the National Union of Students (NUS).

Students are asked how happy they are with factors such as academic support, learning resources, assessment and feedback, as well as their overall satisfaction with their experience of higher education.

Nicola Dandridge, OfS chief executive, said: “While we have seen overall satisfaction fall by 1%, many questions have maintained their satisfaction levels including the student voice, academic support, learning resources and assessment and feedback questions.”

She added: “While I am pleased to see the overall satisfaction rate remains high, the data shows that there is more work to be done to ensure all students have a high quality and fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.

Among Russell Group institutions – highly selective universities that are often considered among the best in the country – the University of Leeds had the highest overall satisfaction rates at 88%.

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) had the lowest of the 22 Russell Group universities included in the data at 71%.

Minouche Shafik, LSE director, said: “We have introduced significant reforms across campus but we know it will take time before these changes are reflected in the NSS. We are listening to our students and we are more motivated than ever to improve their experience at LSE.

“Improving student satisfaction is our top priority”

Oxford and Cambridge are missing from the results as neither institution had the required number of students taking part that was needed to be included in the survey.

The Press Association analysis also shows that of the 16 Russell Group universities that have comparable figures for 2017 and 2018, just one – the University of Southampton – has seen an increase in overall satisfaction among students, rising from 83% to 84%.

A Russell Group spokeswoman said: “Overall student satisfaction levels at Russell Group universities remain high. This shows our universities are delivering for students, with excellent learning resources and intellectually stimulating courses.

“Our members are always looking to improve the experience they offer and they continue to invest in improvements in teaching and facilities, such as high-quality library and IT services.

“The NSS is an important resource to help our universities monitor what matters most to students and where we need to get better.

“We would encourage prospective students to always look beyond the statistics as no one measure will tell you if a course is right for you.”

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK, said: “We are proud that student satisfaction remains very high at universities across the UK. This is down to the hard work, brilliance and dedication of university staff.

“Universities have prioritised investment in teaching, facilities and learning support, in response to feedback from students. Universities want every student to fulfil their potential and will continue to strive to create the best possible environment and conditions for them to succeed.”

UniversityWeb editor