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Privacy Statement

Who carries out the National Student Survey and why?

The National Student Survey (NSS) is being carried out by Ipsos MORI, an independent research agency, on behalf of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). HEFCE is a non-departmental government body, which exercises certain statutory functions under the Further & Higher Education Act 1992 (FHE Act 1992). The NSS forms part of HEFCE's legal requirement under this Act to ensure the quality of higher education in the universities and colleges it funds.

HEFCE has also commissioned the survey on behalf of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), the Department for Economy Northern Ireland (DELNI), Health Education England, National College for Teaching and Leadership and participating private higher education providers and Scottish Higher Education Institutions. These bodies are responsible for funding the survey. These bodies will also use the survey results in the exercise of their statutory functions and HEFCE may share student information, or parts of it, with them.

HEFCE, HEFCW, DELNI and SFC have a statutory role in ensuring the quality of teaching in higher education is assessed, and HEFCE and its partners believe that students' views should form an important part of the assessment. In addition, the National Union of Students (NUS) is a partner in the survey.


What is the purpose of the NSS?

The Higher Education funding bodies, students' unions and the government have agreed that there should be a regular national survey of students to obtain their views on the quality of the teaching, assessment, and support experienced. The NSS is an annual survey that gives students the opportunity to provide feedback on their student learning experience.

The NSS also aims to assist future generations of Higher Education students in their choices of what and where to study, by allowing them to see anonymous feedback on subjects and institutions. It surveys students at higher education institutions in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and students studying higher education courses in directly-funded further education colleges in England and Wales. Results are publicly available each year via the Unistats website.

How did Ipsos MORI obtain my contact details?

HEFCE may, from time to time, engage other non-statutory bodies or agents to carry out functions on their behalf. HEFCE has appointed Ipsos MORI to carry out this survey (NSS). HEFCE has requested student contact details from higher education institutions and Further Education Colleges to be passed to Ipsos MORI in order to be able to conduct this survey. HEFCE, the statutory authority, will retain control of any personal data transferred under contract with Ipsos MORI.

For the purposes of the NSS, Ipsos MORI is acting as survey agent on behalf of HEFCE. HEFCE has a data protection agreement in place with Ipsos MORI, which provides the necessary protection under the law to safeguard students' information. For example, they are forbidden under contract with HEFCE from using the NSS data they have for any other purpose.


Your personal data will be used for the purposes of the NSS only. When the survey is completed, all student contact details will be destroyed, and Ipsos MORI will remove all other student data from their computer systems and transfer it to HEFCE. HEFCE will retain these data for the purposes stated above.


Do I have to take part in this survey?

Participation in this research is voluntary. You do not have to take part. You can also ask Ipsos MORI to remove your details from the contact list being used for this survey, but Ipsos MORI will ask you to confirm your date of birth to ensure that the correct details are removed from the database. It is important that students verify their identity so that the NSS provides robust data for potential students and their advisors to make informed choices. If a student opts out at any stage all personal information (contact details, date of birth etc) will be securely and permanently deleted from the contact list used for this survey and they will not be contacted by Ipsos MORI again.

If a student opts out at any stage all personal information (contact details, date of birth etc.) will be securely and permanently deleted and they will not be contacted by Ipsos MORI again. For further information, please contact us at thestudentsurvey@ipsos.com.


How will the information I provide be used?

Your responses to the NSS will be used solely for research purposes; which includes providing information to allow the UK HE funding bodies to fulfil their statutory roles. The results of this research will be anonymous, statistical information only. We can assure you that you will NOT be identifiable in any published results.

Your participation in this research, together with your individual responses to the questions, will be kept strictly confidential by Ipsos MORI. We can also assure you that any information you provide during this research will NOT be used for marketing, nor will we sell your information to any third party. If you have any questions about the NSS, please contact the research team at thestudentsurvey@ipsos.com.


How will the results of the survey be used?

HEFCE and the above bodies will use the results of the survey for the following purposes:

To publish aggregated and anonymised results of the survey in the following ways:

  • Published 'in context' on the websites of universities and colleges via a 'widget'. This is a small web application that displays information from the Unistats web-site for the course which the user is viewing.
  • Published on the Unistats website that enables users to search and compare information about courses.
  • Data is also envisaged to be available via the UCAS course search tool (Course Finder), which will incorporate the KIS data so users can view the data at the same time as viewing the courses they are interested in applying to.
  • For analysis. This may result in the UK funding bodies undertaking research or the release of data, including any open comments that you may make, to HEFCE approved users (on behalf of the other funding councils) such as academic researchers and sector organisations for the purpose of conducting analysis or research with the aim of enhancing quality within Higher Education. HEFCE will retain control of the data under contract with such users or if that user is subcontracting, we will require they have the same controls. Reports will only present anonymised and aggregated data.
  • To provide summary feedback to individual institutions and students' unions. These data will be provided to institutions and students' unions to help them identify how they can make improvements. This summary feedback will be aggregated and anonymised, ensuring no individual student can be identified. These results may include the text of any comments that students provide at the end of the questionnaire. This text will not be attributed to individuals and students are advised to avoid making comments that could enable them to be individually identified, to name individuals, or to make references that could identify an individual. Although names have been removed from the NSS feedback it may still be possible for those working at a HEI to identify themselves and colleagues. Therefore, such information may be personal data and HEIs should bear this in mind when processing the data.


Additional questions and institution specific questions

In 2017 some institutions will be asking their students additional institution-specific questions. This will be via the online methodology only. This will provide additional confidential feedback to institutions. HEFCE and the above bodies will use the information for the following purposes:

  • To provide summary feedback to individual institutions and students' unions. This data will be provided to institutions to help them identify how they can make improvements.
  • For statistical analysis. This may result in the release of data to other approved users, which may include academic researchers. HEFCE will retain control of the data under contract with such users or if that user is subcontracting, we will require they have the same controls. Reports will only present anonymised and aggregated data.
  • These data will not be published via the Unistats web-site.
  • Institutions may use the results of their own optional scale questions (this will include the institution specific question and optional question banks) publicly, should they wish, in marketing and publicity materials. However, the following principles must apply:
    • If results are to be used in this way, the publication thresholds of 50% response rate and 10 responses must be adhered to;
    • Free text comments should not be used in publicly available materials in order to preserve the anonymity of students;
    • Institutions should not report these results as NSS results.

Can I provide feedback on the NSS?

Yes. Ipsos MORI, HEFCE and the above bodies are committed to continuously improving the NSS. Should you have a question, comment and/or complaint about this research, please contact Ipsos MORI by email sent to thestudentsurvey@ipsos.com.

Or by letter sent to: National Student Survey, Ipsos MORI, Kings House, Kymberley Road, Harrow, HA1 1PT

How can I exercise my rights under the Data Protection Act 1998?

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 you have the right to apply for a copy of the data held about you by HEFCE, for a small fee. If you have any concerns about the use of data for these purposes or would like a copy of the data supplied directly to us, please contact HEFCE by emailing nss@hefce.ac.uk, or by writing to the Data Protection Officer, HEFCE, Nicholson House, Lime, Kiln Close, Stoke Gifford Bristol, BS34 8SR.

How can I obtain further details about this privacy statement or Ipsos MORI's compliance with it?

If you have any questions or require further information about this privacy statement, Ipsos MORI's compliance with data protection laws or the information held about you for this research; please contact Ipsos MORI's Compliance Department. They can be contacted by email sent to compliance@ipsos.com, with 16-027779-01 NSS 2017 as the subject line.

Or by letter sent to: Ref: 15-061315-01 NSS 2016, Compliance Department, Ipsos MORI UK Ltd, 3 Thomas More Square, London, E1W 1YW

How does Ipsos MORI ensure your personal information is held securely?

We take very seriously our responsibilities to keep your personal information secure. As such we take every reasonable precaution to ensure your information is protected from loss, theft or misuse. These precautions include appropriate physical security of our offices, controlled access to computer systems, and use of secure, encrypted internet connections when collecting personal information.

As part of our commitment to the security of your information, Ipsos MORI has regular internal and external audits of its information security, and is registered to the International Standard for Information Security, ISO 27001:2005.

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