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Student Satisfaction Surveys

The University of Essex takes part in four major student surveys to gauge overall satisfaction among students, across the different years of study, in key areas. For example, surveys ask whether degrees match expectations, whether staff are enthusiastic about teaching and whether good resources, support and advice are available to students during their course of study. Surveys are undertaken during the spring term.

About the surveys

The National Student Survey (NSS)
For final year undergraduate students, this annual survey is conducted by Ipsos-MORI on behalf of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). It contains 23 questions in six groups, and one on overall satisfaction. Online surveys also provide the option for feedback and additional questions of our choice, such as about careers, social opportunities and facilities, and free text comments are encouraged. Results from the NSS feed in to University league tables featured in national newspapers.

The 2014 NSS survey will run from Friday 31 January until Wednesday 30 April.  Please follow this link to complete the survey.

The Student Satisfaction Survey (SSS)
Conducted each spring term by the University, this annual ‘in-house’ survey is aimed at students in all years not covered by the NSS and all Postgraduate taught students (except those in the  first year of a part-time post graduate taught programme). It contains the same 23 questions as the NSS, arranged into six groups, alongside a question on overall satisfaction and a number of questions specific to the University of Essex, and all students can add free text comments. The combined results of the NSS and SSS mean we can gather results from students in all years of study. 

The 2014 SSS survey will run from Friday 31 January until Wednesday 30 April. Please follow this link to complete the survey.

The Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES)
Run by the Higher Education Academy yearly, this surveys all students* taking postgraduate taught courses, for example MAs and MScs.  The University first participated in this survey in 2010. The survey asks students to comment on issues such as the quality of teaching and learning, assessment and feedback and organisation and management.

*Please note that if you are in your first year of a part-time post graduate taught programme you will not be invited to take part.

In 2014 the PTES survey will NOT run.

Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES)
Also run by the Higher Education Academy biennial, this surveys all students undertaking postgraduate research courses. The University of Essex participated for the fourth time in 2013.

In 2014 the PRES survey will NOT run.

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How the surveys are run

All surveys are run principally online. The NSS is administered by Ipsos-MORI and the SSS by the Academic Registrar's team at the University. The PTES and PRES are organised by the HE Academy using an online survey facility provided by the University of Bristol.

Students that have not responded to the NSS after a few weeks will be sent a questionnaire by post. Ipsos-MORI may also telephone students towards the end of the survey, where they identify that the response rate is low in a particular subject. The SSS, PTES and PRES are only run online.

Questions about any aspect of the surveys should be sent to

The University is required to pass details of students in their final year to Ipsos-MORI for the NSS. Students who do not complete the questionnaire online are invited to fill in a hard copy questionnaire. Each student has one attempt to complete the survey. All responses are reported anonymously.

Data protection and opting-out
The University of Essex is required to pass details of students in their final year to Ipsos-MORI for the NSS. This data is used only for the survey and removed from their systems as soon as the survey is over. Students who do not complete the questionnaire online are invited to fill in a hard copy questionnaire. Each student has one attempt to complete the survey. All responses are reported anonymously. For full details of how this data is used visit the NSS FAQ page. The SSS is run by the University of Essex and uses contact details directly from the Student Records Database which is covered under the University of Essex data protection policy.

We use the information provided to help improve the services and student experience we offer and comments always remain anonymous. The PTES and PRES asks for personal details in the administration of the survey in order for us to exclude students who have already completed the survey from further mailings. Although personal details are recorded alongside survey responses, we fully respect the confidentiality of responses; reporting and analysis of responses will always present anonymous data.  Once the surveys are completed personal details that may lead to the identification of an individual student are removed from the data. Some demographic information, such as gender, disability or ethnicity, is retained to monitor responses and results for different groups. Results are not published in groups where there are only small numbers of responses that may lead to individuals being identifiable. Any student that wishes to opt-out of any survey can do so by e-mailing 'surveys' (add if you are not e-mailing from campus) or to opt-out of the NSS after mid-December preceding the survey contact Ipsos-MORI directly. Any questions about student satisfaction surveys may be e-mailed to ‘surveys’ (add if you are not e-mailing from campus).

The University will contact eligible students by e-mail and text during the survey period. If a student does not wish to receive any communications, they should e-mail 'surveys' (add if you are not e-mailing from campus) or call 01206 872987 and leave your full name and registration number to opt out.

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Prize information

NSS - Ipsos-MORI will select six people at random from all those that responded to the NSS online. Each person will be contacted to ask if they are happy for their name to be passed back to the University. The first person whose name the University receive from Ipsos-MORI will receive an iPadThe second two names will receive a a full Graduation package (including gown hire, reserved seating for guests and a full photography package) and there are three third prize Amazon vouchers of £25.

SSS - Six responses at random are selected from all those who complete the survey. The first person selected will win an iPad. There will be two second prizes of an Annual Bus Pass for 2014/15. There will be three third prizes of a £25 Amazon voucher.

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How we use the results

The University of Essex has a full procedure on disseminating student survey results which is available online here. In brief, this involves the following activity.

Understanding the NSS results
NSS results are not published per department because not all university departments are the same. Different universities divide their subjects up in different ways so the NSS reflects this by publishing results using the universities sector-wide ‘joint academic coding system’ (JACS). These codes can be grouped together to give very broad subject groupings, such as Social Studies, made up from a collection of more refined groups, such as Economics, Politics or Sociology. NSS subjects are made up of a hierarchy of three levels, each containing a number of groups from the level below. The full hierarchy and explanation of the coding system is available at

Unistats and national media publication
Once available NSS results and many other statistics are published at, the official website that helps students make an informed choice about choosing which university to apply to. At this time NSS results are also published in national newspapers’ University league tables and the University will communicate the results internally and externally to staff and students and in news releases.

Departments or Schools act on results
All results from the SSS, including free text comments, are initially sent to Heads of Department or School, who are then responsible for dealing with NSS and SSS results in accordance with University of Essex procedure. The University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic Standards also reviews all SSS reports, including free text comments, and Pro-Vice-Chancellors review all SSS reports and free text comments for their Faculty’s Departments. As a consequence, link PVCs usually discuss particular issues with Heads of Department or School and refer them for further discussion.

The University’s Strategic Planning and Change Section provides a basic set of NSS results data for Departments, who may request access to more detailed data. For Departments, surveys supplement course-specific feedback received from students during the Student Assessment of Courses and Teaching (SACT), a valuable tool that also serves to improve. Heads of Department or School subsequently give feedback to staff and student liaison committees on action taken in response to surveys.

Results inform strategic planning
Results are also considered at University level and are used to inform the University's strategic planning processes with particular reference to those areas that are most important to students. Survey results also feed into annual programme monitoring and the annual departmental planning cycle.

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