The Office for Students’ track record on National Student Surveys isn’t exactly stellar – but the changes proposed to publication plans for 2023 onwards are straightforward and uncontroversial.
You’ll recall that 2023 will see an entirely revamped survey instrument – one that replaces the old agree/disagree five point Likert scales with four-response direct questions, taking the opportunity to add some questions (mental health, freedom of expression), and lose others (on timetabling, feeling part of a community, and in England the overall question).
Given these changes, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that the old stalwart “percentage agree” indication that you see in most coverage has morphed into a “positivity” measure – showing the proportion of respondents who indicated a preference who chose the two most positive responses. If you don’t like this – don’t worry – the full results are also available so you can roll your own composite measure (I suspect I’ll be doing a “negativity” measure again)
And reflecting changes elsewhere in the OfS data portfolio, we will get new splits for mode (now including apprenticeships alongside full and part-time study), and level (now separating out students studying an undergraduate course with postgraduate components. The traditional subject and provider slices (down to CAH level 3) will remain, but at a sector-wide level there’s been some tweaks to what personal characteristics are shown – again bringing NSS in line with other OfS data publications – the old “25 and above” age category, for instance will split into “25-29” and “30 and above.
Fans of benchmarks will be delighted to see them extended to every level of aggregation, and the inclusion of an indication of the contribution a provider makes to its own benchmark. There’s some changes to the way these benchmarks will be calculated (in line with the results of the data indicators consultation). Level of study is now added to the list of factors used in calculation, the “unknown” category is added to the “White” category for ethnicity and “non-UK domiciled” added, and the “other” category is added to “female” for sex – though these are only benchmarking changes not presentational ones.
Elsewhere there’s a hint of wait and see – the plans are eventually to openly publish results of the bank of healthcare questions but this is pending an analysis to be conducted in 2023. There’s still no intention to openly publish open-text questions, reflect provider departmental structures (this information is actually collected by HESA but I’ve never seen it published!), or publish low response rate data (there’s some super-nerdy reasoning for this) – all these remain in the provider portal for internal use.
One familiar feature that you may miss this year is the grouped responses for scales/themes – given the changes to the survey and the need to test assumptions these won’t feature in the initial 2023 data but will instead turn up in the autumn. Given that these scales are used in TEF this will be a second NSS day to mark in your calendar (though the pending TEF will only be using already-existing NSS data).
And if you’ve strong views on the use of Welsh language within NSS publications, you are encouraged to respond on this issue.
The deadline for responses is 26 May.