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Education Quality and Policy Office


About the survey

Eligible students in HEFCE-funded institutions (plus HE students in Further Education Colleges) are asked to complete the NSS, which has run annually since 2005 and is administered by Ipsos MORI. All responses are anonymised.

Students are asked to rate their overall satisfaction with the quality of their course and their satisfaction against a set of 27 statements in the following themes:

  • The teaching on my course
  • Learning opportunities
  • Assessment and feedback
  • Academic support
  • Organisation and management
  • Learning resources
  • Learning community (section introduced in 2017)
  • Student voice (section introduced in 2017)
  • Overall satisfaction

The University can ask up to 6 sets of additional questions from a NSS bank of 12 question sets. It can also include two institution-specific questions. There is also a free-text section for respondents.

Timing and target population

The target population of students to be surveyed is selected on the basis of the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) return of the previous academic year. This includes:

  • Undergraduate students in their final year (either 3rd, 4th or 6th, depending on the length of the course).
  • Affiliated students are surveyed in their second year.

The survey is launched at the start of the Lent Term. Eligible students will be sent an email invitation from the University explaining the purpose of the survey and inviting them to participate in it. Students will then receive an email invitation with a link to the survey in January sent by Ipsos MORI. The survey usually stays open until the end of April.

Promotion of the Survey within the University

We need to ensure we achieve the highest response rate possible each year, in order for us to meet the publication threshold (50% participation overall and a minimum of 10 respondents per cohort) but more importantly for results to be meaningful. Ipsos MORI send reminders to non-respondents and we always appreciate support from Faculties, Departments, Colleges and Student Representatives in encouraging students to complete the survey.

Below are a few ideas on how to improve awareness of the survey and to encourage eligible students to participate within your institution. These include:

  • Using Ipsos MORI prepared promotional materials; Promotional material for the NSS are available to be downloaded (see Resources, below). Printed posters and flyers will also be sent out to Faculties, Departments, Colleges and CUSU for display and distribution by the start of Lent Term.
  • Displaying official NSS branded promotional material around the institution.
  • Lecture shout-outs - maybe encouraging staff to include a dedicated slide at the end of every presentation or show the NSS video.

Some methods used to maximise the coverage of these materials include:

  • Targeting materials in places where final year students will see them.
  • Identify, with the help of student representatives, traffic 'hotspots' such as learning resource centre/PC laboratories, libraries, bars or as a screensaver/presentation slide in final year lectures/tutorials.

For more information on how to help promote the survey please contact Marianna Kaimaki (

Data analysis and publication

Publicly available data

The NSS has become one of the key indicators of student satisfaction within the sector and the results are used to compile national league tables. Results of the main 27 questions are published on the DiscoverUni website, provided that the publication threshold response rate is met (a 50% response rate and 10 or more respondents).

To allow comparisons across the sector, DiscoverUni presents the data using defined subject areas based on HECoS codes assigned at the Tripos level. Where subjects fail to meet the publication threshold, responses in cognate subjects may be aggregated to meet the threshold. The defined subject areas in the coding hierarchy do not necessarily conform to individual courses at the University. Many Triposes fall across two or more subject areas and in these cases DiscoverUni divides student numbers equally amongst each area.

More detailed analysis for internal use only

The University has access to more data, including responses to the supplementary questions and the anonymised free-text comments. It is also possible to break down the data by other student variables such as age or ethnicity.

The data are available for cohorts of 10+ students. The University can access the data by course code (i.e. the Tripos or Part II NST subject): this allows us to look at our data in a more meaningful way.

See Resources to access this data (for internal use only).

Consideration of the results within the University

We use the survey feedback to enhance the quality of our provision and the students' educational experience. We keep the results in mind when making academic-related decisions so that future students benefit from the experience of current undergraduates.

Every year, Education, Quality and Policy prepares a summary report of the NSS results for the General Board's Education Committee. Relevant data and anonymised student comments are also sent to Faculty Boards for consideration in an appropriate forum (e.g. the Teaching Committee or Staff-Student Joint Committee). 

For example, in light of the NSS results that we have received since we started taking part in 2008, faculties and departments have reviewed and enhanced the quality of their feedback to students as well as the clarity of their marking and classing criteria.

Key findings of the NSS (2011-2019)

For more information about the survey see

Results for 2017, 2018 and 2019 are not publicly available as the response rates of both surveys were under 50%. The most recent reportable results (NSS 2016) were:

  • 90% of participating students at Cambridge declared themselves satisfied with the quality of their course ("definitely agree" and "mostly agree" answers combined). The sector average for overall satisfaction was 86%.
  • The final response rate was 66% (up from 62% in 2015 and 57% in 2014), the highest recorded response rate for Cambridge to date.
  • Six subjects received overall satisfaction scores of 100%, while a further 17 subjects received 90% or over.
  • Of the 6 core categories, ‘Learning and Resources’ continues to be the highest scoring category for Cambridge with a satisfaction score of 95% .
NSS Survey categories 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
The teaching on my course 93 93 92 93 91 92
Assessment and feedback 75 76 74 73 74 72
Academic support 87 87 88 87 86 85
Organisation and management 85 85 83 81 81 79
Learning resources 94 94 95 95 95 95
Personal development 79 79 80 81 78 78
Overall satisfaction 94 92 92 91 90 90

Members of the University can download the top-level report (Raven protected).


Promotional material for NSS 2021

NSS logo

Hard copy materials for printing (PDF format): A4 Poster

E-banners: Static

Further promotional material is available on request; please contact the team at: