The National Student Survey closed two days ago on 30 April. The deadline coincided with the study period for the summer exams. As students buckled down to revise, campus wore a deserted look; except for the library. So armed with a camera and microphone, we set out to find out what LSE students made of the NSS.
The LSE has been performing poorly according to the NSS for the past seven years, showing an overall trend of student satisfaction declining to 71% in 2018. Moreover, the LSE has been the lowest-scoring high-profile university amongst the Russell Group universities in the UK. Nonetheless, this has not led to a decline in prospective students who want to come to the LSE.
To counter the decline in student satisfaction, the LSE has introduced a six-point plan including the introduction of a new student app “Student Hub,” Academic Codes and a Mental Health Action Plan. The director of the LSE, Dame Minouche Shafik, is leading this initiative from the front and promises to make the interests and concerns of the students the top priority. It would be interesting to see how the LSE performs this year based on those proposed six points, which are intended to improve the student experience on campus and through academics.
The NSS is made up of 27 questions ranging from assessment and feedback, teaching on the course, academic support, learning opportunities, learning community, organisation and management, learning resources, students’ union and students’ voice. Students are also asked to give their university an overall satisfaction score. Critics of the NSS claim that the scores obtained for rating the student satisfaction through the NSS are not fair and do not provide a complete representation of students’ experience, as it only measures the experience of final-year undergraduates. Another criticism is that the scores are allegedly subject to gender bias against female academics.
Among the students I interviewed, those who knew what the NSS was, were glad that there was a mechanism in place which judged how the students felt once they have spent time at LSE. However, in the bigger scheme of things, when it came to what makes an LSE education, it was a minor variable! Moreover, students who come to the LSE claim that they do not rate the NSS as the most significant decision-making tool when choosing a university or school for their studies; they prefer to consult other ranking tables such as Complete University Guide, Top University and The Times. The majority of the students at the LSE do not care about the survey; they believe in the brand name, teaching reputation, alumni network and testimonials of the employment opportunities offered after graduation rather than solely looking at the NSS scores.
Personally, as a current sabbatical Postgraduate Student Officer, I believe that the students are excited to come to such a prestigious university because of the reputation and the brand. Once they arrive, they do notice a few issues that could be improved and hence, voice their concerns during their third year of university in the NSS. We must also take into account that the NSS does not represent the whole student population at the LSE. As LSE is a majorly postgraduate university (comprising 65% postgraduate students), hence, the NSS is unable to represent the concerns of many students by missing out the majority of the student population at the LSE.
Film credits: Waqas Saleem
Acknowledgements: We are grateful to all the students who participated in this film and the support of the LSE Student Union.
Disclaimer: This post is opinion-based and does not reflect the views of the London School of Economics and Political Science or any of its constituent departments and divisions.