Guide to Choosing UK Universities - Student Satisfaction & Outcome

Learn more about student satisfaction and outcomes for UK universities.
guide to choosing uk universities - student satisfaction outcomes

Our guide to choosing UK universities shows you how to pick a UK university based on student satisfaction and outcomes.  We go into detail about the National Student Survey and the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education Survey.

Table of Contents

National Student Survey

The National Student Survey (NSS) is a survey taken by all final year undergraduate students of UK universities. The purpose of the NSS is to assess student satisfaction with the quality of their programmes. The survey produces seven scores that are used to produce an overall score that denotes the overall level of student satisfaction with a given course.

The NSS consists of attitude and open-ended questions designed to assess student experience across various aspects such as:

  • Teaching quality
  • Learning opportunities
  • Assessment and feedback from tutors
  • Academic support
  • Organisation and management of course
  • Learning resources
  • Learning community
  • Student voice
  • Overall satisfaction

The NSS scores go from 0-100%. This is used in most league tables as a measurement of student satisfaction. This has been regarded as one of the most important metrics in various league tables. For example, three out of nine metrics used in The Guardian’s league table are centred on student satisfaction. Where applicable, NSS scores are also used in TEF ratings.

NSS League Table

We have put together the league table below which lists UK universities based on NSS satisfaction scores. This is based on the 2020 NSS data for overall satisfaction.

RankingUniversitySatisfaction Score (%)
1University of St Andrews92.73
2Aberystwyth University89.87
3Abertay University89.15
4Swansea University88.87
5Royal Academy of Music88.71
6Loughborough University88.65
7University of Bath88.31
8University of the West of England88.15
9University of Buckingham87.88
10University of Dundee87.61
11Durham University87.31
12Royal Holloway, University of London87.15
13Nottingham Trent University87.13
14University of Glasgow87.08
15University of Stirling86.85
16Lancaster University86.71
17University of Aberdeen86.69
18University of Strathclyde86.36
19University of West London86.34
20University of East Anglia (UEA)86.27
21University of Portsmouth86.23
22St Mary's University85.9
23University of Exeter85.74
24Edinburgh Napier University85.71
25University of Worcester85.47
26University of York85.39
27York St John University85.35
28Bishop Grosseteste University85.3
29University of Sheffield85.28
30Glasgow Caledonian University85.23
31University of Warwick85.13
32Keele University85.07
33University of the West of Scotland84.94
34University of Plymouth84.92
35University of Southampton84.91

Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey

The DLHE is a survey where higher education graduates are contacted six months after graduation to determine their employment status or if they are furthering their studies. The findings of the DLHE determines graduate employability as well as student outcomes – both of which are critical aspects that demonstrate a programme or university’s success in its academic syllabus and delivery. Similar to NSS scores, results from the DLHE is also used in TEF ratings and are one of the most important metrics in league tables.

The DLHE Longitudinal Survey is a survey that is completed three and a half years after graduation. The Longitudinal Survey has the same goals as the first survey but examines student outcomes and employability over a longer period of time after graduation.

DLHE Survey Questions

The DLHE survey encompasses a number of activities that graduates are likely to do after graduation such as:

  • Working
  • Studying
  • Starting a business
  • Travelling
  • Caretaking
  • Unemployed
  • Retired
  • Others

Questions about working set out to determine the graduate’s level of employment, type of employment, how they found their jobs and if their current jobs are in line with their long-term goals.

Questions about furthering studies determine if the graduate intends to further their studies, determine their educational goals and if their first degree was helpful.

For entrepreneurial graduates, survey questions determine their responsibilities, level of supervision given to their staff, and if their programme aided them in their new business.

Choosing a University - Prioritising the Student Experience

Our previous article in this series looked at quality assurance frameworks that maintain teaching standards in UK higher education. We discussed how ratings such as TEF and REF are good guides that inform us about the quality of teaching and research in a particular university. However, rankings and ratings do not reveal the full experience of a university or a particular course.

Therefore, student experience – student outcomes and employability – are extremely important to consider as well. In fact, these metrics are so important that most league tables rely on these scores to determine university rankings!

When choosing a UK university, looking up its NSS scores can give you an idea of how closely a university has met its students’ expectations. The NSS encompasses a wide range of topics that are centred on its students’ experience in their course. For best results, we recommend that you look up the NSS survey results for the particular university that you are considering applying to. The results from this benchmark can identify a university’s strengths, weaknesses, and progress over time.

One of the most pressing concerns for graduates is employability after leaving university. Getting a good education that prepares you well as a global citizen ready for the working world is crucial in ensuring good chances of employability. The DLHE can help give you an idea of what graduates from your university of choice are likely to do. Furthermore, the survey questions are heavily centred on the graduates’ opinions about whether their programmes have aided them in their current activity.

The DLHE also reveals many other interesting facts that you should know before enrolling in a UK university. For example, 50% of all international graduates are in full-time employment within 6 months of graduation.

Our final piece of advice – be sure to seriously consider student satisfaction and outcomes when you’re choosing universities. While high academic standards are important, it may not necessarily guarantee a good student experience. The NSS and DLHE are centred on graduate experiences and subjective opinions which should more closely reflect what you may experience as a student in the university.

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