Archive for National Student Survey

The National Student Survey: Feedback and Response

Posted in Education with tags , , , on February 21, 2014 by telescoper

So the 2014 National Student Survey is under way. The NSS is much maligned, largely because it seems to be regarded by the powers that be solely for the purpose of constructing meaningless league tables. In reality I think the NSS survey is actually rather valuable because it allows us to gather systematic feedback on things that we do well and things we do not so well so we can look to improve our teaching for future generations of students. This isn’t just a PR exercise, at least not here in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex. We really do listen. Here are our responses to last year’s survey in the Department of Physics & Astronomy:


and for the Department of Mathematics:


I hope the fact that we have responded to the feedback we’ve got will encourage more students to participate in this year’s National Student Survey, regardless of what they have to say; that way we can try to improve still further.

First Among Equals

Posted in Brighton, Education with tags , , , , on August 13, 2013 by telescoper

Well, it’s been a pretty good day so far. I had a very interesting meeting in London this morning about something that will be out in open (geddit?) very soon but which I won’t blog about until the appropriate time. Instead I’ll just mention the news just out that the Department of Physics & Astronomy in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex finished in (joint ) 1st place in the 2013 National Student Survey (NSS). The full subject-level tables are not yet published – or at least I’ve been unable to find them – so I don’t know who we’re equal with, but I will update this post when I receive this information.

Looking through the detailed breakdown of the results, one figure leapt out at me. The fraction of Physics & Astronomy students at the University of Sussex who expressed overall satisfaction (in response to Question 22) was an amazing


Obviously it will be difficult to improve on this figure in future (!), but in fact we have already been planning to introduce a number of changes to our courses to boost our scores on other questions. That’s not to say that the result is due to one result: we also scored 100% on Q3 (“the staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching”), Q4 (“the course is intellectually stimulating”), Q15 (“the course is well-organized and is running smoothly”) and Q18 (“I have been able to access specialised equipment, facilities or rooms when I needed to”).

You can say what you like about the NSS, but it certainly keeps us on our toes. The tables generally show continued improvement in NSS scores across the sector, which I think demonstrates that all Higher Education Institutions do make the effort to respond to student feedback.  That’s where the NSS has real value, as opposed to just being part of yet another league table. The survey also shows that in fact most UK Physics and Astronomy departments are extremely good and the differences between them are actually rather small. Maintaining our high ranking therefore won’t be easy, but we’re certainly going to give it a go for next year, and our influx of new staff will certainly help. Hopefully next year we’ll be out in front on our own again!

On behalf of everyone in the Department of  Physics & Astronomy, I’d like to thank the students who participated in the NSS for this enthusiastic endorsement!

Notional Student Survey

Posted in Education with tags , , , on February 15, 2012 by telescoper

The first couple of weeks of this term have been hectic, primarily because of our new-style Consolidated Astronomy Grant Proposal to the Science and Technology Facilities Council which has just gone in with a deadline of tomorrow, but also because I’ve just started teaching Nuclear Physics for the first time, a subject I know absolutely nothing about about which I am a little rusty. I’m only just keeping up with the lectures and problem sheets, and am glad the students are being patient. So far, anyway.

I had only just got back on schedule with this morning’s lecture when I find that tomorrow I have to give up part of the next one by advertising the National Student Survey and encouraging my third-year class of 85 or to participate; the NSS taking place over the next few weeks.  Apparently the rate of return by Physics students is especially low and the University is keen that it should increase. For some reason I’ve been singled out as a suitable person to persuade our third years to provide their input and have been given a special powerpoint presentation to show to encourage all eligible  students – i.e. students in their final year – to complete the survey, so I thought I’d share it here in order to spread the message as widely as possible. I’m not sure what fate awaits me if our rate of return doesn’t improve…

It doesn’t take long to complete – it’s all online – so I hope anyone reading this will take the time to respond. That’s not just for Cardiff Physics students – although I know a few of them do read this blog – but also for students elsewhere in the United Kingdom. If you don’t tell us what you think we don’t know what we could be doing better, so please fill it in. You know it makes sense.

The NSS have also given me a boomerang. I think it’s meant to symbolize a high rate of return. Or something. I may attempt to throw it in tomorrow’s lecture, although I’m not sure that’s allowed on Health and Safety grounds. At least it will provide a bit of light entertainment before I launch into the deep joy that is the semi-empirical mass formula.

P.S. Coincidentally, there’s a nice a typically snarky piece about the NSS by Laurie Taylor in a recent Times Higher.