Academic Quality and Partnerships

What staff need to know about the NSS

Many of the common questions relating to the National Student Survey at Sussex are answered on this page.

If you have a question which has not been answered below, please contact the Student Voice Team.

What is the NSS?

The NSS is an external UK wide survey of all final year undergraduate students. The survey is conducted annually and gathers students' opinions on the quality of their course and their place of study. The data from the NSS is used to aid prospective students's choices, help institutions to improve the student experience and support public accountability.

The survey is coordinated by the Office for Students (OfS), the independent regulator of higher education in England. The University is required to participate in the NSS as an ongoing condition of registration with the OfS.

The NSS is conducted on behalf of the OfS by the external polling company Ipsos.

Previous changes made to the NSS 

In 2022, the Office for Students consulted on changes to the NSS, and as a result the core survey questions and response scales were changed for NSS 2023.  The changes included:

  • a new 4-point item specific response scale will replace the Likert response scale
  • New additional questions on mental wellbeing services and freedom on expression
  • Removal of the final summative question ('Overall Satisfaction') (England only)


The full question bank can be found here

No further changes have been made to the NSS in 2024.

Why is the NSS important to Sussex?

The survey gives us key insights into the experiences of students across their entire time at University. The results are used to make important enhancements to our courses and the services and resources that we provide to our students. The results are  published by the OfS. The results will also feature on the Discover Uni website (where a sufficient number of students have responded) and will help prospective students make choices about where and what to study.

When does the NSS launch at Sussex?

The survey launches at Sussex on 29 January 2024. Students can access the survey from 8 January.

When does the NSS close at Sussex?

The survey will close nationally on 30 April 2024.

Which students are eligible to take the NSS in 2024?

Our list of undergraduate students eligible to take the NSS in 2024 is generated from our HESA 2022-23 Student Data Return and includes undergraduate students expected to finish their course (including those on Integrated Masters courses) between 1 February 2023 and 31 January 2025 inclusive. 

The eligibility criteria for the NSS are defined by the Office for Students (OfS) are as follows:

  • Part-time and full-time undergraduate students
  • Final year students 


However the following students are not eligible:

  • Any student who was eligible to take part in NSS 2023 (whether or not they responded) and still remain at the University i.e. those repeating the final year.


The eligibility criteria for students are listed in detail on the official student survey website.  

How do students take part?

Students will receive an email direct from Ipsos, the company that manages the survey on behalf of the Office for Students (OfS), on 1 February 2024 inviting them to take the survey. This email will contain a unique link which will take them directly to the survey. The survey can be completed via a PC, on a tablet or a phone and takes approximately 10 minutes. A first email reminder will be sent on 5 February for those students who have yet to complete the survey.

An SMS reminder will be sent by Ipsos on 8 February. Students who have not completed the survey by 13 February will be contacted by phone to participate in the survey.

Students can also go direct to The Student Survey website and enter their student details to participate any time until 30th April 2024.

Can students opt out of taking the NSS?

Yes, if a student does not wish to take part in the survey they will need to contact Ipsos directly and indicate that they wish to opt out of the survey. Unless a student deliberately opts out, Ipsos will continue to make contact throughout the survey window.  See Ipsos FAQs for further information.

What if a student thinks they should be eligible for the survey - but can't access the survey?

The eligibility criteria for students are listed in detail on the official student survey website.

Students are also able to contact the NSS team by email to confirm their eligibility.

Any student who thinks they are eligible to take the survey but have not heard from Ipsos by the 2 February should contact  as soon as possible so that we can explore their eligibility.  

The external deadline for the addition or removal of ineligible students is 1 March 2024. Schools however, must notify Student Data and Records of any additions by Friday 23 February to allow time for the addition to be investigated and passed to Ipsos ahead of the 1 March deadline. No additions can be made after the 1 March.

What incentives are available for students?

This year the University is offering ten graduation packages to the value of £150.00 each (to cover the cost of gown hire, two guest tickets and basic photography package) to students who complete the online survey by 30 April 2024. The winners of these prizes will be picked at random by Ipsos after the close of the survey. These prizes are not available to students who complete the survey by phone after being contacted by Ipsos.

As a thank you for taking part in the NSS, students who show proof of completion (email confirmation) can collect a free t-shirt from the NSS Helpers located in either Student Centre or Library (Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11am to 2pm).

The NSS can also be logged for 5 points in the Co-Creation and Evaluation category for the Spirit of Sussex Award

and finally, for every response received, the University will make a £1 donation to a charity chosen by our students.

How do students enter into the prize draw?

Students who complete the survey online will be invited to enter into the prize draw when they finish the survey online. Students who complete the survey by phone after being contacted  by Ipsos are not eligible to be entered into the prize draw.  

Can Schools offer their own incentives?

Schools may offer their own prizes if they wish to. Any School wishing to do so will be required to administer this locally and use School budgets. Any prize draw conducted by a school must adhere to the MRS Regulations and the local administrator must familiarise themselves with these regulations. 

Essentially, the regulations require that any prize or incentive used to encourage participation in the NSS are proportionate and do not constitute, or are not perceived to be a bribe. 

Where incentives or prizes are offered to encourage participation in the NSS, the students in your school must be clearly informed:

  • Who will administer the prize/incentive
  • What the prize/incentive is
  • How and when participant will be notified of the results
  • When winners will receive the prize/incentive
  • Whether there are any conditions attached to participation, and
  • How and when winners will be announced.


Remember too that participants must not be required to do anything other than commence the NSS survey (fully or partially) to be eligible for a prize or incentive. Any winners of a local prize or incentive have a right to remain anonymous – if you want to do local news pieces about winners who will need to gain the express permission of the students. If a winner declines to be identified, their anonymity must be maintained.

The NSS 2024 Good Practice Guide includes several ideas for improving response rates.   

The Financial regulations allow for the University to make charitable donations at an institutional level in limited prescribed circumstances, with such requests requiring Director of Finance approval. As such the University will be making a £1 donation for each response to a charity chosen by students. Individual schools are not permitted to make charity donations.

Can Schools make their own charity donations?

The Financial Regulations allow for the University to make charitable donations at an institutional level in limited prescribed circumstances, with such requests requiring Director of Finance approval. As such the University will be making a £1 donation for each response to a charity chosen by students.  

Individual Schools are not permitted to make charity donations relating to the NSS.

What are the rules for how we promote the NSS?

View the NSS 2024 Good Practice Guide published by Ipsos. View the presentation slides (coming soon) for staff involved in the promotion of the NSS.

Is there a student boycott of the NSS this year?

There is no student boycott of the NSS this year.

What is inappropriate influence?

It is really important that each student's response to the NSS reflects what they think about their course and their experience during their time at Sussex. The University is allowed to promote the NSS and to encourage students to take part; we are not allowed to try to influence how students respond - this is known as inappropriate influence

The Office for Students (OfS) defines this as 'any activity which may encourage students to reflect anything other than their true opinion of their experience during their course in their NSS responses'.

The OfS has published a guide

What are we allowed to do?
  • Run a neutral campaign that focusses solely on boosting responses in the NSS
  • We can encourage students to take part in the survey
  • We can give examples of where previous NSS feedback has resulted in positive improvements
  • We must allow students to give feedback regardless of their opnion
  • Inform students that they are free to inpret the survey questions how they wish
  • Ensure students have total privacy when completing the survey
  • Give students space at the end of a teaching session to complete the survey
  • Promote the NSS in Schools or Departments with low response rates
  • Use incentives or prize draws to promote the survey
  • Ensure all staff are aware of the NSS guidelines



What we must do to avoid inappropriate influence?

Some examples of things to avoid include:

  • We must not pressure students to do the NSS
  • We must not indicate that the NSS is compulsory
  • We must not advise students how to intepret the questions or the response scales
  • Advise or ask students to respond in a certain way
  • Link the NSS to league tables
  • Give any indication that a negative response to the NSS could make their degree look bad to future employers
  • We must not take students through the survey on an individual basis or do the survey for them
  • We should all avoid expressing our personal opinions on the NSS or how it is used


The Office for Students has issued a useful Help Card on Inappropriate Influence.

What to do if a student raises a concern about inappropriate influence?

If students are concerned that they have been inappropriately influenced they can notify the Office for Students