We are all bombarded with requests for our opinions on everything from voting intentions to our favourite brand of toothpaste. “Have you got a minute to help us improve our service by completing a short survey”? Who actually completes those surveys that keep popping up your computer screen when you are browsing the web? Certainly not me! In fact Social scientists in many realms have started to identify a syndrome called ‘survey fatigue,’ and it appears to be particularly bad in higher education (see http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ir.101/pdf). Although many of these surveys promise me an improved service, I suspect that they are not really interested in me and my opinions but only in increasing their profit margins – the amount of money that they can make from me and people like me. The results of these surveys are not published, I won’t know who has completed them or for what the results are used.
But some surveys are different. The information that they gather is publically available and they report it in ways that help organisations and individuals to make choices and decisions? Because the data that they gather covers the whole sector or market, it allows the users of products and services to compare and contrast them. I do fill in those surveys, even though they may not directly help me because I feel an obligation to help those who come after me, albeit in a small way, to share my experience in positive way.
The National Student Survey
A good example of this, more useful kind of survey is the National Student Survey – the NSS http://www.thestudentsurvey.com/. The NSS, which is run by an independent polling and research company, IPSOS/MORI, attempts to get every final year undergraduate student in the UK to answer 22 simple questions about their course, as well as asking for qualitative comments. The survey is completely anonymous: the university isn’t told about individual responses or even who has responded. The NSS reports the aggregated results of the survey on the Unistats – http://unistats.direct.gov.uk/ – website and anyone can look at the information at an institutional or course level. This information can be really useful for student trying to choose a university or a course. And, of course, universities make use of the information to identify strengths and weaknesses in their provision and make improvements.
The NSS 2014 is now open for students in their final year. If you are a final year student, it is a vital opportunity to share your experience and help others to choose the right university for them. Click Here to take the survey.
Posted by: James Cornford