Review of the National Student Survey Process by LondonGlobal


									Review of the 2008 National Student Survey

Invitation to tender

March 2008
Background to the Council

1.       The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) was established in
June 1992 under the terms of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 as a non-
departmental public body operating within a policy and funding context set by the
Government. The Council assumed responsibility for funding higher education in England on
1 April 1993. The Council’s main function is to administer grant provided by the Secretary of
State for Education. The Council funds education, research and the associated activities at
universities and other higher education institutions.

Background to the Project

2.      As part of a new framework for assuring the quality and standards of education
provided by higher education institutions (HEIs), the Council, the HE sector, government and
student representatives agreed that regular and detailed information about teaching quality
should be published, to help inform the choices of prospective students about what and
where to study, and to inform the judgements of other stakeholders and contribute to public
accountability more generally.

3.      This work led to the decision to proceed with the first full-scale National Student
Survey (NSS) in early 2005, and to publish the results in summer 2005, as part of the
Unistats website ( The Unistats website is run by UCAS under a
separate contract. The Unistats site also encompasses statistics derived from the Higher
Education Statistics Agency (HESA) such as entry qualifications and degree results. In
addition it also includes statistics from the Destination of Leavers of Higher Education
(DLHE) survey on employment outcomes.

4.     HEFCE manages the National Student Survey on behalf of the Higher Education
Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Department of Education and Learning in
Northern Ireland (DEL).

5.      Ipsos MORI administers the NSS on behalf of HEFCE. Having run the NSS since its
creation in 2005, Ipsos MORI was re-awarded the contract in 2007 and will continue running
the survey until 2010. In previous years Ipsos MORI has undertaken the post-survey review
of the process as part of their NSS contract. However, HEFCE has decided to seek an
independent evaluation of the 2008 survey process in order to identify good practice and
make suggestions for improvements to the process for future surveys.
6.        The survey aims for a minimum response rate of 50 per cent and 23 students in each
institution and subject and has consistently exceeded this, achieving an overall response
rate of 60 per cent in 2005, 56 per cent in 2006 and 60 per cent in 2007.

7.      The 2008 NSS, which is currently underway, will survey approximately 350,000
students from 149 HEIs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This figure includes 9
Scottish HEIs (that choose to take part) and one private institution. In addition further
education colleges (FECs) are taking part in the NSS for the first time in 2008 and 115 FECs
are participating in the 2008 survey.

8.       NHS funded students are currently surveyed via the online method only. It is hoped
that their participation will extend to the full methodology for future surveys.

9.      Students are able to respond to the survey online, over the telephone or by post.
This represents the order in which students will be contacted. Ipsos MORI and HEFCE are
working to increase the online response rate.

10.       Institutions are given the option to take part in an additional bank of questions an
initiative that was piloted as part of the 2007 survey. Institutions are able to choose from a
selection of question scales which cover more institution specific issues. The data received
through the additional bank of questions is only available back to the institution via a
separate password protected website and is not published on Unistats. For the first time as
part of the 2008 survey institutions have been able to develop their own question to be
included in the additional bank. 70 HEIs have opted to take part in the additional bank of
questions and of these 40 have chosen to develop their own question. In addition 14 FECs
are participating in the additional bank and 3 have developed their own question. Institutions
were given guidelines of the type of questions that would be appropriate for inclusions to
ensure a consistent approach to questioning.

Current Survey Process

11.      The coverage of the 2008 NSS is as follows:

      a. All publicly-funded HEIs in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and some institutions in
      b. All students studying on directly funded prescribed higher education courses at
         further education colleges and at institutions which are members of a HEFCE
         recognised funding consortium.
      c. All full-time and part-time undergraduate students registered at these HEIs and
         FECs, during their final year of study (or for flexible programmes where the final year
         cannot be predicted, during their fourth year of study) with the following exceptions:
                     i. Students on programmes that do not lead to undergraduate
                        qualifications or credits.
                    ii. Students on a course lasting one year or one full-time equivalent
                        (FTE) or less.
                   iii. Any students who were included in the 2007 NSS (whether or not
                        they responded), and who remain at the same institution.
                   iv. Any students who we expect to have completed less than one FTE
                        since they were last surveyed by the end of academic year 2007-08.

12.   Students are included in the 2008 survey population if we expect them to complete
between 1 February 2008 and 31 January 2009 inclusive.

13.      Currently, taught postgraduates are not included in the NSS. This may change in the
future, but it is unlikely that the NSS, designed for undergraduates, could simply be extended
to postgraduates without significant adaptation, in terms of the questionnaire design,
administrative methodology, timing and reporting methods.

Administration of the survey

14.    Ipsos MORI will conduct the survey during the 2008 spring term so that the results
can be published in summer 2008, in time to inform the next cohort of applicants to higher
education. To avoid concerns regarding impact on internal surveys, Ipsos MORI:

      -   Independently brand the NSS, in order clearly distinguish the purpose of the NSS
          by providing marketing materials to HEIs and SUs each December.

      -   Centrally manage the survey’s distribution, so that institutions are not involved in
          contacting students to complete the NSS.

15.       Institutions can choose to start the survey at any time during a five-week window.
Institutions can select a week, between 7 January and 4 February 2008, for the survey to
start. Ipsos MORI conduct the survey at each institution using a set sequence of e-mail,
postal and telephone surveying. This will take up to eight weeks at each institution (although
there may be a need for some targeted follow up during this time and beyond this time to
increase response rates).

16.       During the 2007 NSS, Ipsos MORI successfully managed a pilot incentive scheme,
for institutions who wished to take part. This was a centrally managed scheme which
enabled institutions to provide an incentive to students to complete the NSS. For example,
some institutions provided printer credits for students who completed the survey online.
Ipsos MORI managed the scheme to ensure that institutions were not aware of who had or
had not completed the survey.
17.    Ipsos MORI monitor and provide regular reports on institutions’ response rates
throughout the survey period. Where response rates are below the threshold for publication
Ipsos MORI and the NUS undertake a targeted approach aimed at boosting response rates.
This can include additional marketing, telephone attempts and face-to-face meetings.

18.     The Teaching Quality Information and National Student Survey Steering group
oversee the running of the survey. The appointed contractors will be required to report their
findings to this group at the September meeting.

Services Required
19.     We are looking to appoint contractors to produce a report which analyses and
reviews the process used to administer the 2008 National Student Survey. The review will
contribute to the design of the 2009 NSS and therefore HEFCE will be looking to the report
to suggest practical ways to make improvements to the survey process.

20.     Potential contractors should note that this is not a review of NSS policy issues.

21.      The report should cover such areas as are set out below:
- Whether the current process successfully provides the desired outcomes including;
         High response rates
         Effective communication with stakeholder
         Robust data
         Minimum burden
- The effectiveness of the marketing campaign.
- The number of institutions taking part in the incentive scheme and the effectiveness of
- What factors cause institutions to take part in the additional bank of questions, the reasons
for not participating and what can be done to improve participation.
- The impact of NHS students completing the survey via the online method only.
- Any other topics that the reviewer considers to be relevant

22.     Contractors will be required to engage with a wide range of stakeholders in order to
provide a detailed report. These stakeholders should include:
        - Institutional contacts (including Student Unions)
        - NUS
        - HEFCE project management team
        - HEFCW
        - DEL
        - Ipsos MORI
        - Skills for Health
23.      Reviewers should ensure there is good sectoral coverage when selecting institutions
to contact with relation to the review. It is therefore important that the contractors engage
with at least five Higher Education Institutions, five Further Education Colleges and five
student unions. In addition HEFCE would require that there is a good mix of institutions from
the various mission groups (for example the 1994 Group) and would suggest that the views
of at least one Welsh and one Scottish institution are included in the review.

24.     As FECs have taken part in the survey for the first time in 2008 it will be particularly
important for the report to cover their perspective on the survey process. HEFCE would
particularly want the report to look into how FEC staff found the process and identify areas
where this could be improved in order to raise participation and response rates for further


25.     The contractor will be expected to submit a draft version of the report by 30 July
2008 for feedback from HEFCE. The final report must be delivered to HEFCE by 15 August
2008. In addition the reviewers will be required to present their findings to the NSS/TQI
Steering group on 4 September 2008. The 2008 NSS will be complete by 1 April 2008 and
we would not expect reviewers to begin contacting stakeholder before this date.

Project Management

26.    For the purposes of this study, the Council would expect to have contact with a
nominated member of your organisation.

27.     Contractors will be expected to keep in regular contact with the project team at
HEFCE via a series of regular telephone updates. It is expected that these updates should
be fortnightly in the beginning stages of the review and more frequent, should it be required,
towards the latter stages of the report.

Tender Requirements

28.     Tender responses should provide the information set out in the following paragraphs

            a. The nature of your organisation. If the tender is submitted on behalf of a
               consortium, list the members of the consortium and identify the lead member
               and a point of contact.

            b. The size of your organisation and its current turnover. Where the tenderer is
               a consortium, this information is required for each member.
           c. The methodology you propose to use to undertake the study.

           d. What information you will need to gather.

           e. The timescale to complete the study.

           f.   A project plan outlining key milestones e.g. when you plan to meet with
                stakeholders, submit draft and final report

           g. Experience of similar pieces of work

           h. Details or CVs of your staff who will undertake the study.

           i.   An outline of your capabilities to undertake the design and project
                management roles.

           j.   Details or CVs of your staff who would support the design and project
                management roles.

           k. Any other details about your organisation you feel may be relevant.

Pricing Structure
    29. The Council wishes to agree a fixed price for the work. Tenderers should quote their
    price for the entire review, and indicate how they propose to charge for expenses if these
    are to be presented as an additional item.

   30.        The Council’s preference is to pay for the work on completion. If tenderers
   seek payment by instalments, then the Council will expect to see such payments
   associated with the delivery of identifiable products or the achievement of clearly defined
   milestones. Tenderers should indicate how this requirement will be met.

Quality Procedures
   31. Indicate whether your organisation has any set procedures to enhance quality.

   32. Indicate the names of two current or recent customers, preferably within the public
   sector, for whom you have conducted a similar service and to whom reference may be

Supplementary information
   33. Tenderers are invited to highlight any problem areas or possible improvements
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI)

34.     Please be aware that as a public body, HEFCE is subject to the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (FOI). Our policy is to fully disclose tender information in compliance
with the FOI, if a FOI Act request is received. However, we will not disclose any information
that forms part of this tendering process until the final award of the contract and all
unsuccessful bidders have been informed.

35.     There may be elements of your tender submission which you consider to be
potentially commercially-sensitive and would not want them to be disclosed. The FOI Act
does allow certain exemptions related to trade secrets and commercial interests see for further details. Therefore, where you consider tender
information falls into this category, please extract the information and insert it into a
separate annex, which we will treat as being potentially commercially-sensitive but
you should refer to it in the main body of the tender. When HEFCE consider it to be
appropriate and practicable, we may seek the views of the Contractor before disclosing
information in this annex. The Contractor acknowledges that information provided in this
annex is of indicative value only and that HEFCE may nevertheless be obliged to disclose
36.     This information in accordance with the requirements of the FOIA. All information in
the main tender documents would be disclosed should a request be received.

Procedure for Tender Selection

37.    Tenders should be sent to the Council in the envelope provided to arrive by noon
Friday 4 April 2008, and any enquiries about this tender should be made to Natalie Waters
on 0117 9317148.

39.     Tenders must be accompanied by a signed certificate of non-collusion, set out in the
form given in Appendix A to this ITT.

40.     The Council may invite one or more tenderers to an interview to further explain their
service and how they can meet the Council’s needs. Such interviews will be held on
Wednesday 16 April 2008 at HEFCE’s office in Bristol.

Selection Criteria
41.   The contract will be awarded to the contractor who demonstrates the most
economically advantageous bid, in terms of (not listed in order of importance):
 Understanding of the requirements of the project
 Expertise and experience to deliver all aspects of the project
 Capacity to deliver to schedule
 Value for money
    Appendix A to Invitation to Tender

Certificate of Non-Collusion

We certify that:

        a. The prices in the Tender have been arrived at independently, without consultation,
        communication, agreement or understanding for the purpose of restricting competition,
        as to any matter relating to such prices, with any other Tenderer or with any

        b. Unless otherwise required by law, the prices which have been quoted in the
        Tender have not knowingly been disclosed by the Tenderer, directly or indirectly, to
        any other Tenderer or competitor, nor will they be so disclosed.

        c. No attempt has been made or will be made by the Tenderer to induce any other
        person or firm to submit or not to submit a Tender for the purpose of restricting

        d. No attempt has been made directly or indirectly to canvasses any employee or
        adviser of the HEFCE concerning the award of the contract which is the subject of this
        invitation to tender.




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