Subscales in the National Student Survey (NSS): Some considerations on their structure

Thomas Pollet*, Lee Shepherd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
68 Downloads (Pure)


Measures of student satisfaction are commonly used to compare universities. Student satisfaction with higher education institutions in the UK is assessed yearly using the National Student Survey (NSS). The most recent revision of the NSS suggests that the satisfaction questions form eight different subscales. The aim of this research was to empirically test whether the NSS questions form eight separate subscales. We used the public data from the NSS from 2019 and clustering methods to examine the structure of the data. We tested the structure of the NSS questions when the data was analysed as a whole (i.e. at the ‘top’ national level across all universities and courses). We also assessed the clustering of data for 78 course subjects separately to see the most frequent number of clusters across courses (i.e. at the ‘bottom’ individual course level). At the top (national) level, we found a four cluster or two cluster solution (when excluding both an item on the student union and a general satisfaction item), rather than an eight cluster solution. At the bottom (course) level, the most common cluster solution was two clusters, but with considerable variation, ranging from one to eight clusters. Our findings thus suggest that there is considerable variation in the structure of the NSS and that this variation can depend on analytical level (top national level vs. bottom course level). We review the implications of differing cluster structures for how the NSS is used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1195-1211
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number9
Early online date26 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Subscales in the National Student Survey (NSS): Some considerations on their structure'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this