The National Student Survey (NSS)

The National Student Survey (NSS) is an annual survey which gives university and college students the chance to have their say about what they liked and did not like about their student learning experience during their time in higher education. The majority of students who complete the survey are in their final year.

In the survey, statements are put to students who then rate their university/college and the course they took against these, answering on a five-point scale from 'definitely disagree' to 'definitely agree'. The groups of statements cover topics such as:

  • The teaching on my course
  • Assessment and feedback
  • Academic support
  • Organisation and management
  • Learning resources
  • Personal development

NSS data is only shown on Unistats where at least 10 students have completed the questionnaire and where the respondents make up at least half of all the students on that course. If there are less than 10 students, data cannot be published even if they were all to complete the NSS questionnaire.

In some cases, course numbers may be combined so as to meet the thresholds for publication but for some courses there will be no other relevant data that will serve the purpose. If the subject is new to the university, information about it may not be available yet.

The National Student Survey is run by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), Department of Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland (DELNI) and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW). The survey is undertaken on their behalf by Ipsos MORI.

For more information about the student satisfaction survey, visit the National Student Survey website.

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Source of employment data

The Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey

The Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey asks those who have recently completed higher education courses about their current activity, which may be working, studying, looking for work or even travelling.

Those who are employed are asked for a description of their role and the kind of company they work for so that the nature of their employment can be understood and classified appropriately. They are also asked how much they are paid.

As well as providing information to prospective students about the destinations and earnings of those previously completing courses they are considering applying for, the data collected help to give a picture of patterns of further study and how destinations differ across subjects.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) survey their students under direction from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) while Further Education Colleges (FECs) fund and administer the survey for directly funded HE students and return the data to HEFCE. Students studying on courses in further education colleges (FECs), which are franchised from HEIs, are included in HEIs' DLHE survey data. 

Students are surveyed roughly six months after completing their course and response rates are high, with around 80% of eligible graduates responding. The information collected in the survey is self-reported by students, or by other people they have nominated to respond on their behalf.

A further survey, the Longitudinal DLHE, follows up a sample of these respondents three and a half years (40 months) later. The response rate to this is about 40%.

Data from both surveys is displayed on Unistats, with the data for the Longitudinal DLHE being shown for all similar courses as it is based on a sample of all graduates, in contrast to the early survey which is a broad census.

While graduate employment in the future may shift from current patterns, destination information for those previously completing the course is among those factors rated most important in making decisions by users of the site.

In the DLHE survey, jobs that graduates report doing are classified using the Standard Occupational Classification 2010 (SOC2010) system. The SOC system has eleven groupings of which groups 1-3 are used to define "professional or managerial jobs" as shown on Unistats.

Graduates by major SOC group

  • Managers and senior officials
  • Professional occupations
  • Associate professional and technical occupations
  • Administrative and secretarial occupations
  • Skilled trades occupations
  • Personal service occupations
  • Sales and customer service occupations
  • Process, plant and machine operatives
  • Elementary occupation
  • Unknown
  • All occupations

HEFCE have worked with the Higher Education Careers Support Unit (HECSU) to develop a guide to understanding the how the information from the DLHE survey is used and what the data can tell us. 

Employability statements

Unistats provides a link to employability statements on university and college websites. The employability statement is a short summary of what each university or college offers to their students to support their employability, and their transition into employment and beyond.

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Course accreditation

All courses included on Unistats allow those who complete them successfully to gain recognised UK awards. In addition, some courses, or in some cases departments or whole universities and colleges, will have additional accreditation conferred on them by another body. Sometimes, additional accreditation may be a requirement in order to allow you to join a particular profession; for example, doctors must complete courses accredited by the General Medical Council.

In other cases it may indicate that the course allows students to join professional bodies, prepares them to work in certain professions or meets the expectations of employers in particular sectors. Where a course has some additional accreditation links are provided to allow you to understand exactly what this means for each course.

Accrediting bodies include Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) who have statutory authority over a profession or group of professionals. For example, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) provides standards, training and support of architecture and architects across the UK. It monitors compliance with internationally recognised minimum standards in architectural education, and identifies courses and examinations which achieve these standards necessary to prepare students for professional practice.

Universities and colleges with PSRB accreditation have to satisfy the relevant body that their students meet particular professional standards, and accreditation allows graduates to qualify for certain types of employment, or even gain exemption from the body's own examinations. If the data for a course indicate that it has additional accreditation, you can check the university/college website for more information.

Programme accreditation may lead to one or more of the following:

  1. Graduates are able to practise as a professional in a specific field, and in some cases receive a licence to practise that is required by law;
  2. Graduates are granted chartered status;
  3. Graduates are granted exemption from all or part of professional exams;
  4. Graduates are eligible for entry to membership of a professional association or learned society;
  5. The programme is confirmed as meeting externally designated standards and quality.

Some types of accreditation may be partial, so for example a course might be specifically described as 'recognised'. You should always check with the university or college what type of accreditation the course has, and what it may lead to.

You can find a list of the accrediting bodies currently recognised as eligible for inclusion in Unistats on the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) website.

We have asked the PSRBs which accredit courses at universities or colleges to provide relevant information on their own websites explaining in general terms the purposes of accreditation and the potential benefits to students.

Further information on accreditation on the HESA website.

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Scheduled learning and teaching activity

Scheduled learning and teaching includes lectures, seminars and tutorials. The table below indicates how different learning and teaching methods are categorised in the KIS.

Activity type KIS category
Lecture Scheduled
Seminar Scheduled
Tutorial Scheduled
Project supervision Scheduled
Demonstration Scheduled
Practical classes and workshops Scheduled
Supervised time in studio/workshop Scheduled
Fieldwork Scheduled
External visits Scheduled
Work-based learning Scheduled
Guided independent study Independent
Placement Placement
Year abroad Placement

In UK higher education, the expectation is that full-time students will spend 1,200 hours each year, learning. Everyone learns at a different rate, so the number of hours will vary from person to person.

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Guided independent study

Independent study (which may be guided) typically features alongside lectures, seminars and similar. Independent study might include preparation for scheduled learning sessions, follow up work, wider reading or practice, completion of assessment tasks, revision etc.


Placements refers to any planned period of experience that takes place outside of the university or college (for example, in a workplace) to help students develop particular skills, knowledge or understanding as part of their course.

Courses delivered in Welsh

Unistats allows you to see whether you can take all or part of a course in Welsh. Where courses are available in Welsh, please note that it is not compulsory; you can choose whether or not to study in Welsh.

The proportion of the course available to study in Welsh may also vary depending on the modules you choose. You should contact the university or college for more information.

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Course assessment

Written Exams

Written exams usually occur at the end of a period of learning to assess if students have achieved the intended learning goals. Written exams may be 'seen', where students are told the questions they are expected to answer in advance, or 'unseen', where the questions are only revealed at the time of the actual exam. Some written exams are 'open-book', where students are allowed to use a selection of reference materials (e.g. text books) during the assessment.

The questions asked as part of a written exam may be essay, short answer, problem or multiple-choice. Written exams usually (but not always) take place under timed conditions.


Coursework may include: written assignments, essays, reports, dissertations, portfolios, group tasks, presentations, projects, or other similar activities that count towards your qualification or progression.

Practical exams

Practical exams may include: presentations, assessment of clinical skills or laboratory techniques, critique of or commentary on artwork, language translation, or other similar activities.

Other assessments

Sometimes there are assessments that don't count towards your qualification but you nevertheless have to pass. For example, medics might have to pass a fitness to practice test.

Further information on assessment on the HESA website.

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Entry requirements

Each university or college has different entry qualifications and requirements for their courses. Qualification requirements can include GCE A-levels, Scottish Highers/Advanced Highers, Advanced Diploma, BTEC awards, NVQs/SVQs, Access to HE and others. Universities and colleges express entry requirements in a variety of ways depending on the requirements of the course. An offer will often be expressed as a minimum grade, or set of grades, depending on the qualifications you are taking, or as a total number of UCAS Tariff Points.

An offer may also include a minimum grade in a specific subject or qualification. Some institutions take additional information into consideration, such as contextual data about where you went to school or where you live, and may make you a different offer than the minimum specified on their website. A number of universities and colleges will also consider applications from potential students with no formal qualifications but who have experience that is relevant to the course.

In addition to academic and vocational qualifications, some courses have additional non-academic requirements that you will need to satisfy before you start your course, in order to enable you to follow your chosen career when you graduate.

For example, initial teacher training courses will require you to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check before you can start a course where you will be working with under-18 year olds in the classroom.

The Unistats website shows the range of entry qualifications that students who were previously enrolled on the course had achieved. This is not necessarily the only range of qualifications that will be accepted for the course and you should check the information provided on the university or college website for full details.

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UCAS Tariff Points

The UCAS Tariff is the system for allocating points to qualifications used for entry to higher education. Universities and colleges can use the UCAS Tariff to make comparisons between applicants with different qualifications. Tariff points are often used in entry requirements, although other factors will often be taken into account by universities and colleges when deciding whether to offer you a place.

The UCAS Tariff has changed for courses starting in September 2017. The new Tariff uses a different numeric scale to allow more qualifications to be added. As it is possible to map old Tariff points to the equivalent new Tariff points, Unistats displays points held by students who were previously enrolled on the course expressed in new Tariff points. This is to allow comparison with Tariff information displayed elsewhere for 2017 courses.

The Unistats website shows the UCAS Tariff points held by the students who were previously enrolled on the course. These are not necessarily the minimum entry requirements for the course and you should check the university or college website for full information.

For further information on the UCAS Tariff, see the UCAS website

The National Union of Students (NUS)

The NUS (National Union of Students) is a voluntary membership organisation. Its mission is to promote, defend and extend the rights of students and to develop and champion strong students' unions. Through its member students' unions, the NUS currently represents the interests of more than seven million students.

Each university or college will have their own students' union that is the independent voice of students. Each students' union will offer services such as clubs and societies, social events and offer advice and guidance. Their mission is to ensure that the student voice is listened to within the university or college, campaign on issues which affect students and to make the university and college experience great. To find out more about the services of individual students unions and the work of NUS go to the NUS website.

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