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NSS Resources

Page history last edited by Alex Buckley 11 years, 8 months ago

The National Student Survey: Annotated Bibliography of key resources



This bibliographycontains key references concerning analysis and critique of the National Student Survey (NSS), as well as references to work describing the use of NSS results for the enhancement of learning and teaching. Please note: the literature contained in this document addresses issues at the national level, rather than the discipline level.


All of the articles and resources listed in this document are available via EvidenceNet.

The pages on EvidenceNet additionally include links to other related documents, where appropriate.


The following topics are covered in this bibliography:


  1. Sources of NSS data

  2. NSS data analysis

  3. History and future development of the NSS

  4. Literature on the use of student surveys in HE

  5. Enhancement work

  6. HEA resources



A version of this annotated bibliography is available to download in a printable format.





Sources of NSS Data



This is the site designed for dissemination of NSS results to prospective students and other interested members of the general public. As well as using a search option, you can download various spreadsheets for the current year, including individual results for institutions and collated institutional results for all JACS subject codes down to JACS level 3.



As owners of the survey, HEFCE disseminate detailed information through their website (including reports and analyses they have commissioned, some of which are described below). Data is available for several years.


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NSS data analysis





This report provides an overview of the 2009 data, as well as looking at trends in the data from 2006 to 2009. It follows on from Surridge (2006) and Surridge (2008a).


This is a very rich source of analysis of the 2005 and 2006 NSS data, especially regarding the relative effects on NSS scores of various important factors such as institution and discipline.


An analysis of the 2005 NSS data. It compares scores for different questions, and looks at differences caused by student characteristics such as age of entry, ethnicity and subject of study.


An analysis of the 2006 NSS data.


This report looks at the NSS data from 2005, 2006 and 2007. It looks at trends in the data, including differences due to ethnicity and subject studied.


This document explains in a non-technical language the analysis methods used in Surridge (2006) and Surridge (2008a). It also provides information about how those reports can be used for quality enhancement purposes.


This HEA-funded report brings together some key pieces of research (including Marsh & Cheng (2008)) to give an overview of past findings and areas of future work. It is a very useful general guide to the NSS data, especially regarding what it can and cannot tell us.


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History and development of the NSS


This report forms part of the review of the efficiency, effectiveness and use of existing public information about higher education of which the NSS is a part. It explores many issues around the uses of NSS data, including its potential to be used for enhancement purposes. It provides several recommendations which will affect the way that NSS data is gathered, analysed and presented.


This paper maps the development of quality evaluation procedures and raises questions about current approaches. Harvey concludes that quality evaluations in the UK have been guided as much by political pragmatism as concerns with the quality of teaching.


This is a report setting out the plans for providing useful information about HE from September 2012 onwards. It includes plans for the "Key Information Set" (KIS) and the development of the National Student Survey. 




This early paper looks at how the Course Evaluation Questionnaire (CEQ), widely used in Australia, can be of use in a UK context. This work informed the adoption of the CEQ in the UK, in the (modified) form of the NSS.


This article describes the history of the NSS, by discussing the mechanisms and findings of the two pilot surveys that took place in 2003 and 2004.


This paper examines the history of the Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ), and the empirical data concerning its usefulness as a performance indicator of teaching quality. As the design of the NSS was based on the CEQ, this paper provides useful information about the validity of the NSS. 


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Literature on the use of student surveys in HE


This report provides an overview of issues around the collection and use of student feedback. It includes discussion of the issue at institutional, faculty, programme and module level, and provides useful background to the development of the NSS.


This paper provides a critical examination of the implications of the use of student evaluation questionnaires for lecturers’ understanding of teaching, and their professional self-development.


In a special issue of the journal, Marsh explores in detail several aspects of the use of students’ evaluations of teaching, and addresses a range of issues, complaints and controversies. Chapter 4 is particularly useful as it reviews the empirical evidence which connects students’ evaluations with various proposed criteria of teaching effectiveness.


This very short paper was written by Mike Prosser in 2005 when he was Director of Research and Evaluation at the HEA. It lays out his view that using the NSS to formulate league tables may hinder its use as tool for improving student learning experiences.


This article compares the strengths and weaknesses of national surveys (which have large samples and provide comparability) and institutional surveys (which can be tailor-made for particular contexts). It focuses on the value of student engagement with surveys.


This article looks at issues and controversies around the design and administration of sector-wide student surveys, giving grounds for – as Yorke puts it – both "comfort and discomfort".

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Enhancement work


This article describes work carried out at Sheffield Hallam University focused on the involvement of students in the process of using NSS data for quality enhancement purposes. Various activities are described, including an event to allow academics to hear student perspectives in detail, and the publication of a "You Said, We Did..." document to inform students of the changes that had resulted from their feedback.


This is a collection of 12 case studies produced by members of the HEA’s NSS Institutional Working Group. The case studies address a range of issues centred on the use of NSS results for the enhancement of learning and teaching, including: triangulation with internal surveys; internal dissemination of NSS results; involving students in responding to NSS scores. More recent case studies are available here.


This paper explores the different ways universities feed information back to students regarding quality enhancement work that has taken place on the basis of feedback such as NSS results. 




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HEA resources


The Higher Education Academy has a range of resources to support the informed use of NSS results for the enhancement of learning and teaching. The main HEA webpage for our NSS work is here: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ourwork/supportingresearch/nss


  • Subject Centres

Subject Centres provide discipline-based advice and data analysis on the NSS, including the production and dissemination of reports, and the development of disciplinary or departmental workshops. To learn more about Subject Centres and the work that they do in this area, please visit their websites, which are all accessible via this page: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/subjectcentres


  • EvidenceNet Wikis

There are other EvidenceNet Wiki pages relating to the NSS, including:


Directory of Insitutional Activities on the NSS: This page contains an overview of enhancement activities undertaken by UK institutions as a result of their NSS scores. 


NSS Scotland Event: This page contains the material from an HEA event held in Scotland in April 2010 regarding the use of the NSS as a quality enhancement tool. It contains the programme for the event, as well as the presentations.


Surveys for Enhancement Conference: This page contains the material from the HEA Surveys for Enhancement Conference held in May 2010, including the programme, the abstracts and a selection of presentations: 


  • EvidenceNet


   EvidenceNet is the Academy's service to promote and support the use of evidence in higher education, and is the parent site for this Wiki. It contains a variety of material relevant to the NSS, including research papers, case studies, events and networks (for instance, the resources linked from this page are housed on EvidenceNet). If you require resources beyond those that are linked on this page, please visit EvidenceNet for further exploration of the NSS.


EvidenceNet is also a place to submit material of your own. We hope that as you undertake enhancement work, you consider writing a short case study using the case study submission form


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