Developing a survey of taught postgraduate students

The Office for Students is developing options for a feedback survey for taught postgraduate students.

A key source of information about the undergraduate experience is provided by the National Student Survey (NSS).

However, there is a lack of comparable published information about the postgraduate taught student (PGT) experience.

We are exploring options for a PGT survey that could:

  • provide information that contributes to the public accountability of higher education
  • provide information to help us fulfil our regulatory duties under the Higher Education and Research Act 2017
  • provide data that supports higher education providers in improving the student experience.

In 2019 we tested a new PGT questionnaire, asking students about their postgraduate academic experience, their perceptions of value for money, and the provision of mental health and wellbeing support at their provider.

We learned valuable lessons from this research about how to deliver the survey and make sure it is relevant to PGT students, especially those on distance learning and part-time courses. These lessons will be taken forward into a pilot survey.

2022 pilot survey

We are running a pilot survey during April and May 2022 with higher education providers in England and PGT students who wish to take part.

The questions have now been refined and tested with students. This pilot will help to shape any future regular survey of PGT students in England.

Providers taking part will see summarised responses from their own students and benefit from an early look at how students respond to the questionnaire.

Frequently asked questions

Participating providers must:

  • be OfS-registered and deliver postgraduate taught courses in England
  • have at least 10 PGT students studying for eligible qualifications.

All providers meeting these criteria were invited to take part in the pilot in the autumn of 2021. The deadline for expressions of interest closed in December 2021.  

Participating providers include:

  • Bath Spa University

  • BPP

  • Buckinghamshire New University

  • Harper Adams

  • Imperial College

  • Istituto Marangoni

  • Kaplan Open Learning Limited

  • Keele University

  • Lancaster University

  • Leeds Arts University

  • Leeds Trinity University

  • London South Bank University

  • Middlesex University

  • Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts

  • Myerscough College

  • National College group

  • National Film and Television School

  • Northumbria University

  • Oxford University

  • Royal College of Art

  • Sheffield Hallam University

  • Staffordshire University

  • Teesside University

  • The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance

  • University Centre Bishop Burton

  • University College London

  • University for the Creative Arts

  • University of Central Lancashire

  • University of East Anglia

  • University of Essex

  • University of Falmouth

  • University of Gloucestershire

  • University of Kent

  • University of Law

  • University of Plymouth

  • University of Sheffield

  • University of York

  • University of Birmingham

  • UWE, Bristol

  • Winchester University

  • York College

The pilot aims to:

  • test the operation of the revised survey questionnaire with students
  • test the processes of identifying eligible students to take part in the survey
  • assess participant response rates
  • understand the additional activities and effort required of providers when taking part in the survey
  • inform the development of sector-level public information about the PGT experience.

The survey will ask students to provide feedback about the academic aspects of their course experience.

The style of the questionnaire is new and the pilot will seek to understand if it functions as expected and how well it is understood by students. The findings of the pilot may require changes to be made to the questions if the survey is used in future years.

Pilot questionnaire

Motivations for study

Q1. What was your motivation for undertaking postgraduate study?

  • To enable me to progress to a higher-level qualification (e.g. PhD)
  • To progress in my current career path
  • To change my current career
  • To improve my employment prospects
  • As a requirement to enter a particular profession
  • To meet the requirements of my current job
  • To develop a specialist set of skills and knowledge
  • Returning to higher education after a break
  • For personal interest
  • To continue on from my undergraduate studies
  • Other (Please specify)

Information

Q2. When choosing what to study, how comprehensive was the information provided about your course?

  • Very comprehensive
  • Fairly comprehensive
  • Not very comprehensive
  • Not at all comprehensive
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q3. When choosing what to study, how clear was the information provided about your course?

  • Very clear
  • Fairly clear
  • Not very clear
  • Not at all clear
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q4. How well did the information reflect the course content?

  • Very well
  • Fairly well
  • Not very well
  • Not at all well
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Course design and content

Q5. How clear are the course learning aims?

  • Very clear
  • Fairly clear
  • Not very clear
  • Not at all clear
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q6. Overall, how appropriate is the mix of breadth and depth of content on your course?

  • Very appropriate
  • Fairly appropriate
  • Not very appropriate
  • Not at all appropriate
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q7. Overall, how appropriate is the mix of directed and independent learning on your course?

  • Very appropriate
  • Fairly appropriate
  • Not very appropriate
  • Not at all appropriate
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q8. How often is your course content up-to-date, and informed by current thinking?

  • Very often
  • Fairly often
  • Not very often
  • Rarely or never
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Course organisation and management

Q9. How well organised is your course?

  • Very well
  • Fairly well
  • Not very well
  • Not at all well
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q10. How well have any changes in the course or teaching been communicated?

  • Very well
  • Fairly well
  • Not very well
  • Not at all well
  • There have not been any changes / I am not aware of any changes
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Teaching and learning

Q11. How often are teaching staff good at explaining the subject matter?

  • Very often
  • Fairly often
  • Not very often
  • Rarely or never
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q12. How often does your course intellectually stimulate and challenge you?

  • Very often
  • Fairly often
  • Not very often
  • Rarely or never
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q13. How helpful were the opportunities you have had to work with other students?

  • Very helpful
  • Fairly helpful
  • Not very helpful
  • Not at all helpful
  • I have not had opportunities to work with other students
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q14. How often does your course encourage you to think critically?

  • Very often
  • Fairly often
  • Not very often
  • Rarely or never
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q15. How well supported have you been to study independently?

  • Very well
  • Fairly well
  • Not very well
  • Not at all well
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Assessment and feedback

Q16. How often are the criteria for assessments provided in advance?

  • Very often
  • Fairly often
  • Not very often
  • Rarely or never
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q17. How often are the assessment criteria clear?

  • Very often
  • Fairly often
  • Not very often
  • Rarely or never
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q18. How often have assessments allowed you to demonstrate what you have learnt on your course?

  • Very often
  • Fairly often
  • Not very often
  • Rarely or never
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q19. How often has feedback helped you to improve your work?

  • Very often
  • Fairly often
  • Not very often
  • Rarely or never
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Learning resources

Q20. How easy is it to access the learning resources (either digital or physical), provided by your institution when you need to?

  • Very easy
  • Fairly easy
  • Not very easy
  • Not at all easy
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q21. How well do the learning resources (either digital or physical) provided by your institution support your learning?

  • Very well
  • Fairly well
  • Not very well
  • Not at all well
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Academic support

Q22. How easy is it to contact staff when you need to?

  • Very easy
  • Fairly easy
  • Not very easy
  • Not at all easy
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q23. How well supported have you been to meet the academic challenges of postgraduate study?

  • Very well
  • Fairly well
  • Not very well
  • Not at all well
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Dissertation or major project

Q24. What stage have you reached with your dissertation or major project?

  • Not started
  • At the planning stage
  • Started
  • Completed
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me
  • I don't have a dissertation or major project on this course

Q25. How well has the supervision for your dissertation or major project met your needs?

  • Very well
  • Fairly well
  • Not very well
  • Not at all well
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Student voice

Q26. How content have you been with the opportunities to give feedback on your course?

  • Very content
  • Fairly content
  • Not very content
  • Not at all content
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q27. How open are staff to hearing what students have to say about the course?

  • Very open
  • Fairly open
  • Not very open
  • Not at all open
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Summative questions

Q28. How well has your course helped you to develop the knowledge and skills you need for your next steps?

  • Very well
  • Fairly well
  • Not very well
  • Not at all well
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Q29. Overall, how would you rate the quality of your course?

  • Very good
  • Fairly good
  • Not very good
  • Not at all good
  • I don't know / this does not apply to me

Decisions about whether or not to conduct a regular full scale PGT survey will follow from the outcomes of the pilot exercise.

Participating providers will receive a breakdown of the data showing their own students’ responses to the questionnaire. We aim to make this available in summer 2022.

Please note that the data providers receive will be subject to controls to safeguard students’ anonymity and ensure that it meets appropriate quality thresholds.
We do not propose to publish provider-level findings from this pilot.

The pilot survey will be administered by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the OfS. Ipsos MORI will liaise with and support participating providers, and will contact and invite students to take part.

In the below document is a list of qualifications and associated COURSEAIMs eligible for inclusion according to HESA Student or Student Alternative definitions.

Published 05 July 2021
Last updated 24 May 2022
24 May 2022
Updated to reflect recruitment has closed, and to give details of the questionnaire and participating providers.
24 November 2021
Details of 2022 pilot survey added

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