Thursday, 20 August 2015

More fun with the NSS

The NSS data - about which I posted earlier this week - allows you to compare specific universities. I've analysed the data to show how the different university mission groups compare over the last six years.

For each mission group I've calculated the mean satisfaction score for each year across the mission group's members, unweighted by the number of students at each institution. The 'satisfaction score' is the proportion of students who agreed with the statement 'Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of my course' (Question 22 of the NSS.)  The mission group membership for each year is that at August 2015 - that is, I haven't taken account of historic changes, such as the addition of four members to the Russell Group in 2012.

Although there are clearly differences between the mission groups, with sustained differences over time, its important to recognise that the data show a large amount of satisfaction whatever the mission group - scores range in 2015 from 85% satisfaction to 89% satisfaction. Although every Vice-Chancellor will say that there's room for improvement, its a good solid performance.

I've also been a little mischievous - the 1994 Group folded a few years ago but I've resurrected it for this comparison. It was formed of research-intensive universities, like the Russell Group, but they tended to be smaller and, as their informal strap-line had it, 'elite but not elitist'.  Most of the former 1994 Group members are no longer in a mission group, but the pattern of performance shows that mission group alone should not be taken as a guide to a university's performance.

Do the data necessarily mean that teaching and the student experience are better at the Russell Group? Not necessarily. Remember - the data show student satisfaction, which might be higher at Russell Group universities for other reasons. Maybe Russell Group universities are better at managing expectations; maybe the students at Russell Group have more realistic expectations of university because their family has a history of going to university already - they have the social capital to know what to expect and to make the most of it. But of course it is also possible that students at Russell Group universities just do have a better experience ...

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