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UK: Students satisfied despite hefty price tag

Undergraduate student satisfaction has remained steady in the UK despite England’s tripling of tuition fees in 2012. This is the main takeaway of the National Student Survey 2015 (NSS) released earlier this month, which gathers students’ opinions on the quality of their courses. Of the more than 300 000 students who responded the survey, all of them in the final year of their bachelor’s, 86% said they were satisfied with their higher education experience—despite the fact that they were the first generation to undergo the shift to GBP 9 000-a-year tuition fees. Satisfaction actually increased, albeit minimally, for five out of the six areas covered by the questionnaire: assessment and feedback, academic support, organisation and management, learning resources and personal development. 
Given that student satisfaction can be used as a proxy for teaching quality, it is expected that the National Student Survey will contribute to determine which institutions should be allowed to increase their tuition fees with inflation, under Jo Johnson’s proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (see ACA – Education Europe, argues Jo Frankahm based on her own research. She also points out that the NSS is a blunt instrument that does not allow for differentiation between ‘real’ and ‘superficial’ problems. There is clear potential for much controversy if the NSS indeed becomes a centrepiece of the Teaching Excellence Framework.