National Student Survey - NSS

Promotion of the NSS

The NSS is a valuable source of information for higher education providers and prospective students. So it's important to ensure the integrity of the NSS data.

Users of the data need to know that students who complete the survey have not been influenced by their higher education provider, or any other parties, to respond in a way that doesn't reflect their true opinion.

Good practice guide

Ipsos gives all providers taking part in the NSS a good practice guide to help them avoid inappropriate influence when promoting the NSS.

In addition to the good practice guide, Ipsos has put together a list of dos and don'ts to support providers. These are summarised below, or you can download them as a PDF.

  • Encourage all eligible students to participate.
  • Allow students to give their feedback regardless of their opinion.
  • Ensure students have total privacy when completing the survey.
  • Be wary of tone and use of language when discussing the NSS and asking students to complete it: Be sure to keep promotion of the NSS as neutral as possible. Staff can explain the importance of the NSS, improvements their feedback has led to in previous years, and how it will help prospective students.
  • Inform students that they are free to interpret the survey questions how they wish: Questions for the NSS have been cognitively tested and are self-explanatory. Students should be encouraged to answer the survey questions however they interpret them.
  • Hold voluntary NSS completion sessions: Organising completion sessions is an effective way to encourage students to complete the survey. However, these sessions must be voluntary.
  • Share the student guide with your eligible population to notify them how they can report any experience of inappropriate influence.
  • Embed the NSS with other surveys being undertaken at the provider.
  • Require or pressure students to attend NSS completion sessions.
  • Indicate that the survey is compulsory.
  • Explicitly or implicitly advise students on how to interpret the survey: Providers should not explain the meanings of questions or the NSS response scale. This includes comparing the response scale to another scale with a different purpose.
  • Advise or request students to respond in a certain way: For example, ‘I recommend that you select...’, or providing standard or example responses.
  • Take students through the survey: Providers should not stand or sit beside students when they are completing the survey or take them through their responses question-by-question.
  • Link the NSS to league tables, job prospects and the perceived value of students’ degrees: Providers are not permitted to tell students that negative responses could make their degrees look bad to future employers. There should be no link made between completion of the survey and employers’ perceptions of positive and negative outcomes. This includes links between the NSS and university league tables or the Teaching Excellent Framework (TEF).

How to report inappropriate influence

The OfS is responsible for managing the process of investigating concerns that students have been inappropriately influenced.

To raise a concern, email [email protected].

If the concern relates to a provider outside England, the OfS will liaise with the relevant funding body. 

Read the NSS allegations procedure

Please read our privacy notice for NSS allegations for details of how we will use your personal information if you make an allegation of inappropriate influence.

Consequences of inappropriate influence

If an investigation were to find that promotional activities or marketing materials had resulted in inappropriate influence, whether intentional or unintentional, the integrity of the NSS data could be called into question.

The OfS (in partnership with the relevant funding partners) could take action to suppress the affected NSS data for the provider.

This means that no NSS results would be published for the affected courses at the provider that year.

Broader data integrity concerns

Concerns about other aspects of NSS data integrity may be raised and resolved through other routes, depending on the nature of the issue.

Concern Who to contact
Concerns about the use of data by providers

The Advertising Standards Authority or the Competition and Markets Authority.

Concerns about financial irregularity and impropriety, waste and fraud at funded providers

For England, concerns should be routed through the OfS’s complaints and notifications process.

For Wales, concerns should be routed through [email protected].

For Scotland, concerns should be routed through [email protected].

For Ireland, concerns should be routed through [email protected].

Institutional data amendments or errors

A number of different data sources are used for the NSS and Discover Uni and sometimes providers request that this data be amended.

The OfS’s data amendments panel assesses all proposed amendments and judges whether the identified errors are widespread and significant enough to require action.

For the NSS, the OfS assesses these amendments on behalf of the UK funding and regulatory bodies.

Last updated 25 October 2023
25 October 2023
Updated guidance documents added for NSS 2024.
04 January 2023
Updated guidance docs for 2023.
20 December 2021
Updated guidance documents added for NSS 2022
13 November 2020
Redirected link to NSS allegations privacy notice
26 October 2020
Good practice guides 2021 and updated dos and don'ts document published
28 February 2020
Good practice guide updated
19 February 2020
Page renamed and content restructure
27 January 2020
New dos and don'ts and content refresh
28 November 2019
Good practice guidance updated for 2020 survey

Describe your experience of using this website

Improve experience feedback
* *

Thank you for your feedback