Increase in Independent Providers Undertaking NSS Ahead of Changes

Included in the 2016 National Student Survey (NSS) results are 13 alternative providers, up from 5 in 2015. Alongside changes to the questions and survey provider, next year will see the NSS become compulsory for all providers Designated for student finance in England. The survey was also undertaken by students across the UK at 155 HEIs and 190 Further education colleges and 13 alternative providers of higher education.

The NSS covers nearly all final-year undergraduates studying for higher education qualifications at higher education institutions (HEIs), further education colleges (FECs) and alternative providers in England and Wales, and HEIs in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Independent Higher Education members Futureworks Media School received 83% satisfaction, a full 20 points above the benchmark(2) for similar programmes and groups of students.

The 2016 results show that student satisfaction remains high across universities, colleges and alternative providers in the UK, with 86% saying that they are satisfied overall with their course. The response rate for the 2016 survey was 72 per cent, a slight increase on the previous two years, with around 312,000 students responding in total. More detailed data are available through the HEFCE website here.

Independent Higher Education Chief Executive, Alex Proudfoot, said:

“This year’s results show that students in independent providers of higher education welcome their innovative and student-centred approach to teaching. Many take on some of the most difficult methods of teaching – high-intensity, creative and online learning – and achieve student satisfaction high above the average scores for similar courses.”

“With a primary focus on teaching students independent providers are able to drive student success within their colleges and universities, leaving final year students feeling positive about their futures.”

HEFCE Chief Executive Madeline Atkins also commented on the increase in alternative provider numbers:

“The increase in the number of alternative providers taking part in the survey on a voluntary basis for this year is a reflection of how important the survey is to the sector and highlights the increasing diversity of higher education in the UK.”

2016 marks the last year that the NSS will run in its current format, as a new survey will be launched in 2017. Full details of plans for the 2017 survey along with details of the new questions are due to be communicated to the higher education sector in September 2016.



  1. The survey is funded by the four UK higher education funding bodies (the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland), the National College of Teaching and Leadership and Health Education England. HEIs in Scotland, Wales and participating alternative providers fund their own participation in the survey. The threshold for publication at each institution is that at least 10 students must have responded, and that these should represent at least half the students eligible to participate.
  2. “Benchmarking is a process by which individual scores can be compared to a sector benchmarking group average whilst taking into account those factors that are known to influence the item being measured. In terms of the NSS, these factors include; subject of study, age, sex, ethnicity, disability, and the mode of study of individual students at an institution. In order to achieve this, sector average scores are calculated for each benchmarking group. The benchmark for each institution is then calculated by taking a weighted average of the scores for benchmarking groups taking account of their mix of students. For a more detailed description of benchmarking, please refer to the HESA website.” From
  • On 18th August 2016