Almost half of UK universities and colleges see drop in student satisfaction

Almost half of the UK’s universities and colleges have seen a fall in the proportion of students who 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 increased to 84%.

This was an increase of one percentage point on the previous year.

In England, 83% of students were satisfied with the quality of their course – the same percentage as in 2018.

A PA analysis of the data shows that of 354 universities and colleges that have comparable figures for 2018 and 2019, 175 have seen a fall in overall satisfaction, while 171 saw a rise.

The remaining eight saw no change.

The figures, published by the Office for Students (OfS), are based on the views of more than 330,000 students – mainly final-year undergraduates, and cover universities and colleges that offer higher education courses.

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.

Satisfaction levels vary between different courses and universities. In England, overall satisfaction ranged from 73% to 91%.

Despite improvements in recent years, students are still reporting lower rates of satisfaction with the assessment and feedback on their courses compared to other areas covered by the survey.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said: “It is good news that overall satisfaction with higher education courses remains high this year.

“But this survey also shows that not every student is getting the positive experience they deserve.

“Higher education can be a life-changing opportunity for students, but universities and colleges must listen to what students are telling them and make improvements where needed.”

The NSS is carried out by the Office for Students on behalf of the UK funding and regulatory bodies.

It suggests that, despite improvements in recent years, students are still reporting lower rates of satisfaction with the assessment and feedback on their courses compared with other areas covered by the survey.

Among Russell Group institutions – highly selective universities that are often considered among the best in the country – the University of York had the highest overall satisfaction rate at 89%.

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Edinburgh had the joint lowest rating of the 22 Russell Group universities included in the data at 78%.

However, LSE saw an improvement from its 2018 score of 71%.

LSE director Minouche Shafik said: “We are pleased that our NSS results have improved and we are more motivated than ever to keep improving the student experience at LSE.

“Improving student satisfaction will remain our top priority. Our new strategy, LSE 2030, sets out our commitment to students, where our first priority is education for impact, supporting an inclusive student experience and working in partnership with students to shape the world and LSE for the better.”

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 PA analysis also shows that, of the 22 Russell Group universities that have comparable figures for 2018 and 2019, 16 had an increase in satisfaction and six had a decrease.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “The results across the UK are testament to both the contribution of university staff and to the investment that is being made in improvements to teaching, facilities and support services.

“The recognition from students of the quality of their experience underlines the importance of sustained and long-term university funding, to allow our world-leading universities to continue to be environments in which students can succeed and flourish.”

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