The critical need to measure student experience and drive action


Ed Layt, Head of Consultancy, SMRS

Providing an exceptional student experience is more important than ever for UK universities, with risks around financial sustainability, changing competitive dynamics and evolving student expectations. However, many providers still struggle to effectively measure key aspects of the student experience and use the insight to make meaningful and impactful changes, quickly. 

Recent surveys highlight this data gap. In the 2023 National Student Survey (NSS) 39% of students could not agree that student feedback had been acted on. Additionally, the 2023 Student Academic Experience Survey by Advance HE and HEPI showed 16% of students said their experience at university has been worse than expected. 


The applicant experience 

The applicant experience sets expectations for what’s to come at university. However, research shows many prospective students feel anxious and unsupported during application and enrolment. 

 Over 50% of applicants said the process caused them stress and uncertainty, while 47% felt communication from universities was poor (YouthSight’s Annual Applicant Experience Survey). By measuring sentiment throughout the applicant journey, universities can identify pain points and improve communication and support. 


The student experience 

Once enrolled, measuring the ongoing student experience is critical. The 2022 NSS showed that student satisfaction with academic support, student voice and learning community all declined. 

 Universities must regularly gauge student perceptions, expectations, and emotional well-being to create personalised and more supportive experiences. Around 30% of students consider withdrawing or leaving university according to the last 3 years of research from the Student Academic Experience Survey by Advance HE and HEPI. Early identification and intervention are key. 


The impact 

Enhancing these experiences has major benefits. Good applicant support improves conversion rates, while high student satisfaction drives retention and student success. 

In fact, universities with higher student satisfaction scores also have higher graduate employment rates and income levels. Creating outstanding experiences is both a moral and strategic imperative. 


What needs to be done? 

It is essential to regularly measure and check in with applicants and students to truly understand their experience. Effectively measuring and acting on experience data is critical to provide the support students need and expect.  

See how we’re addressing these challenges by helping connect students to content from Student Minds and how SMRS can support you, your applicants, and your students to succeed. 

Ed Layt