15 July 2021

Student satisfaction in Wales 2021

Student satisfaction among undergraduates at universities and colleges in Wales has dipped for the first time to below 80%, with 76% of final year students in 2021 saying they were satisfied with their course.

This is down from 84% last year, which showed that student satisfaction at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic initially held steady, and is very slightly ahead the UK as a whole.

The National Student Survey is open to final year undergraduate students at higher education providers in the UK nations.

The survey was open from 6 January to 30 April 2021.

This is the second year that the NSS has been carried out during the pandemic, and as with the 2020 survey, it was concluded that the statistics could be published without including exceptional caveats or adjustments. This means that statisticians are satisfied with the robustness of the data. 

Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of HEFCW said: “The National Student Survey is one of many ways institutions get feedback about aspects of their performance, and it is an important tool that allows providers to take account of the views of a large number of students.

“The challenges over the past 16 months have been huge, for students and providers. The challenges become particularly acute when provision moves from delivering in ‘crisis mode’ to a ‘new normality’. Expectations are, rightly, higher as institutions have had more time to adjust to new arrangements.

“We know that providers responded with innovations in teaching, learning and extracurricular support, and will be grateful for the feedback from final year students, as institutions can use this information to make improvements for the benefit of the cohorts that follow them.

“We recognise the challenges in bringing together student communities this year in the same way. This has been echoed in the scores, where learning community, along with resources, has seen a steeper drop. Institutions should reflect and continue to act on this, with our support and in partnership with the student body.

“Students and providers will be feeling the impact of the pandemic for the next few years. It is too early to tell if student satisfaction outcomes might reflect that, or if they will bounce back. Having said that, it is important that we understand exactly what lies behind the outcomes of the 2021 survey, and that institutions work in partnership with their students to continue to provide a high quality education and student experience.

“The student experience has traditionally been a particular strength of the higher education sector in Wales. As we continue to be reassured about the overall quality of higher education in Wales, prospective students can continue with confidence to choose to study at our universities and colleges.”  

Until 2021, overall student satisfaction at Welsh higher education providers had held steady between 82% and 86% for the duration of the National Student Survey, with figures in recent years in particular edging ahead of overall satisfaction for the UK.

2021 National Student Survey results: Comparative data for each category covered by the survey (HE and FE institutions combined)

 Questions2020 UK
% Satisfied
2020 Wales
% Satisfied
2021 UK
% Satisfied
2021 Wales
% Satisfied
1-4The teaching on my course84858081
5-7Learning opportunities83847979
8-11Assessment and feedback73756969
12-14Academic support79817474
15-17Organisation and management  74  75 70  69
18-20Learning resources86867472
21-22Learning community76786769
23-25Student voice74766668
26Students’ union56605356
27Overall satisfaction83847576

The percentage satisfied is calculated by combining ‘strongly agree’ and ‘mostly agree’.


  1. NSS covers the majority of final-year undergraduates studying for higher education qualifications at UK higher education institutions, and at further education colleges in Wales, England and Northern Ireland. The survey, carried out by IPSOS Mori, is funded by the four UK higher education funding/regulatory bodies (HEFCW, the Office for Students, the Scottish Funding Council, and the Department for Economy Northern Ireland), and Health Education England.
  2. Full results are available on the Office for Students website. The data will be published on the Discover Uni website at a later date, providing information to inform potential students’ choices about where and what to study.
  3. The threshold for publication at institution level is that at least 10 students must have responded, and that these should represent at least half the students eligible to participate.
  4. Response rates for the core questions remained high at 69.3 per cent, with 332,500 responses received.
  5. Institution level responses for all 27 questions have been benchmarked. Benchmarked data is published for both 2020 and 2021 results.
  6. While the data for the additional six Covid-19-related questions that were included in this year’s survey won’t be published, providers will still be able to access it. The data for the healthcare placement questions won’t be published due to low response numbers but providers can still access it.
  7. Student satisfaction data for the Open University in Wales is included in the figures for the Open University (though UK-wide, listed as ‘England HEI’).
  8. The data remains of high quality. The OfS could not identify changes in response trends that could be attributed to events during the survey window, such as the gradual easing of lockdowns. While response rates vary between different student groups, this variation is no higher than in previous years. 184,964 responses to the covid-related questions were received, giving a response rate of 38.6 per cent. The lower response rate is mainly because the questions were only asked online. Given large variations in the response rates for different providers, we are only publishing higher-level statistics.
  9. The OfS recommends that the data should be used with sensitivity and caution, given the circumstances under which the survey was undertaken. Rather than indicating a trend, the decline in positive responses to the summary question at a provider level, for instance, could be short-lived, and might rebound once the pandemic eases. Prospective students wanting information about a specific course should bear in mind that these figures represent a snapshot of the student experience at a particular point in time.
  10. The outcomes of the first phase of a review of the NSS are available at Review of the National Student Survey – Office for Students. The second phase of the review is currently ongoing.