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Student feedback

6 min read
Find out what feedback to measure and when in the student journey to optimise the experience for students at higher education establishments

The student experience is affected by a whole host of different moments from the day someone applies to an institution to all the facilities they use during their time there until they finally graduate.

Improving the student experience is not just about understanding them and improving them individually, but also understanding how they’re connected and how improvements at one touchpoint can impact other areas of the experience too.

Here are some of the most common places where student feedback can help you offer a better student experience:


Understanding the experience for your applicants is essential to drive improvements in everything from the number of applicants you receive to your offer acceptance rates.

It’s an opportunity to understand the journey from how they first heard about you and the course they’ve applied to right through to what made them finally accept or reject an offer.

Ideally, this feedback should be gathered while the experience is still fresh to drive better quality of data and improved response rates. For example, after a student submits an application, after their interview, post-offer and post-acceptance or rejection.

When you combine all those touchpoints into a single data set, you have a holistic view of the applicant journey so you’re able to draw connections between different stages and identify the key drivers of your core metrics – say, for example your offer acceptance rate.

This allows you to then hone in on the improvements you need to make to improve those KPIs, by identifying the moments that matter most and the actions you can take to have the biggest impact.

Course rating

The ultimate output of any educational establishment is the learning outcomes and students who leave happy that they got what they expected from their course.

Student course satisfaction is a major factor in driving applications with university league tables making it easier than ever for prospective applicants to compare course satisfaction scores at a whole range of institutions.

Traditionally, students have been asked for course feedback upon graduation and these surveys also served as an opportunity to find out what their post-graduation plans are. However, many courses are made up of a number of modules and take place over a 2-3 years so increasingly, institutions are asking for feedback more frequently to understand how the experience changes over time.

Gathering feedback on specific modules allows the faculty to drill down and understand the impact of each one on overall student satisfaction while more frequent check ins allow you to understand how the experience is impacted over time. For example you may find that scores in the first semester are significantly different from those in subsequent semesters, prompting you to drill down to identify why.

Understanding the course experience in this level of detail allows you to pinpoint the key drivers of satisfaction and identify the key areas to improve to have the biggest impact on it.


Nowhere in a university or college do students spend more time than in their accomodation. It’s a big expense for students and a substantial overhead for the institution too.

It plays a key role in providing students with a comfortable environment to work and relax away from their studies and is another factor in driving admissions.

There are plenty of ways to understand the experience whether it’s a detailed annual survey of your students to shorter, more frequent ad-hoc feedback. Ideally, you’d use a combination of the two with the annual survey being your comprehensive health check, while ad-hoc surveys offer the chance to get quick feedback on specific elements of the accomodation say for example by having a catering survey following a new menu or change of provider.

It’s useful to map out all the key touchpoints that fall with accommodation – these could include bedrooms, common areas, facilities like bars, cafes, canteen or sports facilities – and design your feedback systems to suit. As a rule of thumb, if it’s somewhere students spend less time, opt for shorter ad hoc surveys, but for those areas they spend the majority of their time, a more comprehensive survey will allow you to dive deeper into the experience.

Students union

The experience offered by Students Unions is a great value add to students and goes beyond just their course to help them get the most out of their time at the institution. Unions are faced with the challenge of being relevant to a diverse student base, and understanding their expectations is essential in designing services that will help them meet their objectives.

Most people’s view of students unions is that they continue to follow a traditional model of providing sports and social opportunities. But increasingly, students are looking for more whether that’s career advice, pastoral care or the opportunity to take part in student democracy.

Similarly, it’s an opportunity to optimise the revenue-generating arms of the union like the shops, cafes and bars and understand the key drivers of spend and loyalty amongst students.

It’s a challenge Portsmouth Students Union is working with Qualtrics to tackle – their ‘Future Union’ project is using student feedback to understand how the model needs to change to become more inclusive.

The project is resulting in a whole host of new services being offered in response to student feedback including partnerships with local employers to offer career advice, training and mentoring to students.

Start optimising your student experience at all key touchpoints