Students Staff

31 January 2020

What do students think? How you can help us find out.

Filed under: Latest news — Laura Mathias @ 4:19 pm

As three major student surveys launch on Monday 3 February, Professor Madeline Eacott, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, introduces eight key facts about the surveys, and why they matter.

Professor Madeline Eacott

Professor Madeline Eacott

Here at Essex, we believe in putting student success at the heart of everything we do. The NSS, UKES and PTES surveys, give the University the opportunity to receive direct, anonymous feedback from our taught students on how they think we are doing. And, of course, this gives us an opportunity to improve.

Whether our roles involve encouraging students to explore new ideas, assessing their coursework, staffing the library, building new classrooms, fixing IT systems, or devising timetables, we’re all here to help students get the very best out of their time at Essex – and to encourage their feedback.

Please take a few minutes to read these key facts, so you can help and play your part in continual improvement at Essex – as we strive to ensure every one of our students receives an excellent and transformational education.

Eight key facts about the upcoming 2020 student surveys

1. On Monday 3 February the 2020 NSS, UKES and PTES student surveys will go live, running until Thursday 30 April. Each year, University-wide effort encourages students to complete their survey. Our response rates are usually good: last year we reached a 76.8 per cent NSS response rate compared with a national average of 67.4 per cent. This year we’re aiming for at least 70 per cent for all departments, and 76 per cent institutionally. We’re also hoping to achieve 25 per cent participation in UKES and PTES institutionally, with all departments above 15 per cent. We donate £1 to local charities in Colchester, Southend and Loughton for every survey completed; last year we raised £3,000 for local good causes.

2. The results of the annual National Student Survey (NSS) the UK Engagement Survey (UKES) and Postgraduate Taught Engagement Survey (PTES) are hugely important. We believe in putting student success at the heart of everything we do. These surveys for all levels of taught study give us an opportunity to receive direct, anonymous feedback from our own students on how they think we are doing. And, of course, this gives us an opportunity to improve. The National Student Survey (NSS) – whose campaign theme this year is “What do you think?” – is for most final year undergraduates. The UK Engagement Survey (UKES) is for all other undergraduates. And, to support our postgraduate taught community better, this year we’re also running the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES).

3. Once surveys are complete, and the results are in – this is what happens next. We make institutional improvements, informed by what the results are telling us. Results are scrutinised in many places. Each department, for example, considers the results from their own students and agrees a plan of actions with their Executive Dean in relation to improving their courses. Alongside this departmental scrutiny, the results are considered at an institutional level to see whether there are any broader issues raised. For example, the library examines results across departments to see how we can improve the library services we offer to our students and the Student Experience Committee considers all the free-text comments to pick out any common themes which could be addressed.

4. NSS results are also made publicly available as an aid to potential students choosing their university.
NSS results are made public at Discover Uni to help prospective students make informed decisions about where and what to study. They also make a significant contribution to our rankings in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide, as well as other UK ranking systems. The results from the UKES and PTES are used internally to help us understand the experiences of our undergraduate students who aren’t eligible for the NSS, as well as those of our PGT community.

5. A coordinated, university-wide response to our results is really important. Our Student Satisfaction Surveys Coordination Group – attended by Executive Deans and senior colleagues from Academic Section and CER – ensures a coherent approach across the University. Together, we deliver on various action plans that arise from our results, with the ultimate aim of ensuring we offer our students an excellent education, and achieve great student satisfaction.

6. When it comes to making meaningful improvements, students are at the heart of the process. Current students and the SU also help us understand how we can use the survey data to improve student satisfaction. For example, departments hold student focus groups to understand how they can better support their students’ learning. One outcome has been that many departments have launched for the first time this year in-module feedback to allow students to give feedback early in the module so that action can be taken to rectify any issues before the module ends.

7. Whatever job you so, you can help to encourage a student to take part in their survey. The NSS, UKES and PTES are a snapshot of our efforts, through the eyes of our students. When the 2020 surveys launch, we should all be ready to play our part. That means coordinating our efforts to achieve the best response rate and attain the best results. Once the results are in, we will then act with renewed energy to make continual improvements towards excellence in education.

8. Be briefed! Familiarise yourself with NSS, UKES and PTES. The three surveys ask a range of questions on all aspects of academic and wider university experience. It is important we support good practice and do not impose inappropriate influence. For more details on supporting the surveys, and for details of the NSS survey questions, visit

Got any questions?

The Student Experience Team within Academic Section are overseeing arrangements for NSS, UKES and PTES.  Please contact Mira Dragieva, Student Voice Manager via ext 4639.

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