This article is more than 1 year old

Student satisfaction is bouncing back

Early signs are encouraging that student satisfaction is returning to pre-pandemic levels. Jonah Duffin presents the latest data
This article is more than 1 year old

Jonah Duffin is Global Director of External Relations at IDP

The pandemic was arguably the biggest disruption to the delivery of higher education in over 50 years.

Unsurprisingly, despite the best efforts of staff across the UK there was a notable drop in student satisfaction across a range of national measures.

The National Student Survey saw overall student satisfaction drop from 83 per cent in 2020 (the survey having largely been completed before the pandemic hit) to 74 per cent in 2021 and despite much less disruption in 2022, satisfaction still only rose by 2 percentage points to 76 per cent which was still 7 percentage points lower than pre-pandemic levels.

A different approach

For the last decade, Whatuni has been collecting student reviews to capture the experience of students too. Unlike the NSS, Whatuni reviews capture students in all years of study, but unsurprisingly there is a close correlation between the satisfaction of students in all years of study and final year undergraduates as captured by the NSS. The Whatuni reviews span the experience of students both inside and outside of the classroom with categories that include teachers and lecturers, facilities, career support, students’ union and a question on overall satisfaction.

In 2020, students through the Whatuni reviews rated their overall satisfaction at 83.6 per cent (compared to the NSS’s 83 per cent), in and 2022 this dropped to 80.6 per cent (compared to the NSS’s 76.3 per cent) mirroring the finding that students felt that the pandemic disruption had still had an impact on their experience.

Earlier this academic year, the Whatuni team began collecting reviews for 2023. With nearly 15,000 reviews having been collected so far this year, we are beginning to analyse what this may mean for student satisfaction for 2023. The main headline appears to be that overall student satisfaction is recovering to pre-pandemic levels. From over 14,600 reviews collected from students in all years of study this academic year, the rating for the overall student experience is up to 4.16/5 (83.2 per cent) which is a jump from 4.03/5 (80.6 per cent) in 2022.

2021Not collected74%
2023 (mid point)83.2%-


That student satisfaction is rebounding to pre-pandemic levels of satisfaction will be hugely reassuring for providers, given the slump in scores during 2021 and 2022. It will also be significant, in the context of question 27 (measuring overall satisfaction) being removed from the National Student Survey, the Whatuni reviews provides the sector with an ability to continue to have a measure for overall satisfaction which is now missing from the revised NSS questionnaire.

Indeed when comparing the scores for 2023 compared to 2022, satisfaction scores have increased in all categories (not just overall satisfaction) as demonstrated by the chart below. With the 2023 scores in grey and the 2022 scores in blue. The largest increase being in the subject facilities rating which has increased by 0.57/5 (equivalent to an increase of +11.4 percentage points), the second highest increase in the course rating which moves from 3.51/5 (70.2 per cent) in 2022 to 4.03/5 (80.6 per cent) an increase of +10.4 percentage points so far in 2023.

So with nearly 15,000 student reviews collected already this academic year, there are grounds for optimism that student satisfaction is returning to pre pandemic levels. Whatuni review collection remains open until March, and we are keen to engage with institutions to help generate as many reviews for your institution as possible.

On 26 April we will be publishing the final results for 2023 which will be covered by an Insights Day as well as a celebratory awards evening. Not only will this allow us to celebrate the outstanding support for students across the sector, but it will also give us an early insight for what is likely to come in the National Student Survey too, provide important evidence to institutions on the experience of your students and valuable information to prospective about what and where they would like to study in future.

If you would like to know how many of your students have submitted reviews already or would like to work with us to promote review collection with your students, please contact

One response to “Student satisfaction is bouncing back

  1. The article is incurious as to how the opandemic affected student satisfaction. Or is the unpopularity of online classes too obvious to mention?

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