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College Student Satisfaction Survey Guidance 2023-24


Survey purpose

  1. The Student Satisfaction and Engagement Survey (SSES) provide a means to evaluate and enhance college provision in Scotland.
  2. The SSES is a national approach to monitoring student satisfaction and engagement that over time will provide a consistent basis for college regions to evidence impact and improvement within their outcome agreements. Outcome agreements were introduced in AY 2012-13. They are intended to enable SFC and colleges to demonstrate the impact of the sector and its contribution to meeting Scottish Government priorities.
  3. When running as an annual cross-sector survey, it will provide opportunities to monitor changes across the sector in a range of ways, for example by subject area or mode of attendance. Similarly, the intention would be for regions to utilise data to promote sharing of good practice both within and between regions and to contribute to continuous improvement. It will help to strengthen the role of Students’ Associations in representation and advocacy and will contribute to public accountability.

Revisions to guidance

  1. Apart from the adjusted survey period dates and the return deadline date there is no change in the 2023-24 SSES guidance from 2022-23.

Use of data

  1. SFC will publish a summary report of SSES data and provide colleges with full sector-level satisfaction and response data.
  2. We continue to consult with the sector and key stakeholders on the ownership, use and publication of disaggregated data from the survey.
  3. Statement 1 from the SSES ‘Overall, I am satisfied with my college experience’ has been incorporated as an Outcome Agreement national measure for College Outcome Agreements.

Survey statements

  1. The survey statements are attached in Annex A. The thirteen statements have been developed in light of existing college practice and will not be made mandatory which will provide flexibility for students who do not have an opinion on some statements. We ask that the statement wording, order and the ratings are used exactly as presented in Annex A.
  2. We provide a Gaelic translation of the whole survey and this can be seen as blue text in Annex A.
  3. We have further developed, through an SSES Accessibility Working Group, additional survey formats. These are specifically for students with assessed additional support needs and/or have SCQF level 1-3 literacy.
  4. We provide at Annex B three alternative survey formats that colleges can use, as appropriate, with student groups at SCQF levels 1-3.
    1. B1 – has the standard survey statements with additional responses symbols.
    2. B2 – has survey statements written at SCQF level 3 literacy and with additional response symbols.
    3. B3 – has survey statements written at SCQF level 3 literacy combined with recognisable supporting symbols to aid student understanding.
  5. The three survey formats at Annex B have been tested with students. However, we will continue to evaluate the appropriateness of the alternative format surveys and adjust, where necessary.
  6. A comment box has been provided for students to add any relevant written comments on learning and teaching at the college. This was included based on feedback from the Working Group suggesting the more valuable data from surveys often came through open text boxes. The expectation is that colleges will retain this open text data and use it for their own analysis. As part of the dissemination of findings we will seek feedback from colleges on the effectiveness of the open text box.
  7. The explanatory text for the survey should be kept together with the survey statements.

Survey returns

  1. We are asking ALL colleges to survey students across all levels and modes of attendance within a set period in the academic year (March-April) and return summary data from their surveys.
  2. Include students with a “current” and appropriate group mode status at your college, at the point of survey, and use this figure to populate the Survey Sample Number box in each mode grouping proforma.
  3. We will collect data by level and student mode of attendance and will issue up to six separate templates that will cover summary data based on the following two levels and three modes of attendance groupings;
    • FE level – courses at SCQF or ‘broadly comparable’ level 6 and below.
    • HE level – courses at SCQF or ‘broadly comparable’ level 7 and above.
    • Group A – Full-time (include mode codes – 17 & 18).
    • Group B – Part-time (include mode codes – 05, 06, 07, 08, 09).
    • Group C – Distance/Flexible (include mode codes – 11, 12, 16).
  4. An example template is attached (Annex C). We will issue electronic templates to your college SSES contact(s) in February 2024.

Survey placement

  1. The SSES statements should be standalone and sit separately from existing college surveys. This is to protect the methodological integrity and consistency of the national survey across institutions. This does not prevent colleges from grouping the SSES together in a separate section at the beginning of an existing internal survey.
  2. Some colleges have already expressed a preference to combine the national survey statements as a grouping within one of their existing student surveys. This is acceptable and it is hoped this option will provide flexibility and reduce the potential for survey fatigue resulting from conducting two separate surveys.

Student target group

  1. The survey should only be targeted at students on courses of 4 credits or more, i.e. of nominal learning hours of 160 or greater.
  2. The SSES should include coverage of DYW groups – including Senior Phase provision – focusing on learners involved in programmes over 160 hours and would normally be primarily based on College campus.
  3. If students are on multiple inter-linked courses that are subject related for example, ‘apprenticeship programmes’ then it is acceptable to have them complete a ‘single survey response’.

Online survey

  1. We would encourage online completion of the survey by students. However, where difficulties exist in fully understanding the statements, for example ESOL students or those students with additional learning needs, staff can provide additional support and guidance. The survey can be completed on paper and thereafter the college would have to organise data entry of the survey. We have not specified what approach colleges use to capture survey data and therefore colleges can tailor their own approach whether that is QDP Services, Survey Monkey or other resources.

Response rates

  1. For some colleges the survey response rates have been below expectations. It is essential that colleges comply with this guidance in full of the aim of improving response rates, where low, so that meaningful conclusions and comparisons can be made from the SSES results.
  2. Students should be encouraged to participate in the survey. We expect Students’ Associations will have a significant part to play both in promoting engagement with the survey and working with the college to consider the resulting data, sparqs will be able to support Students’ Associations in this process. In the survey for Group A – full-time and Group B – part-time colleges should aim to achieve a target response rate of at least 50%.

Survey timing

  1. The survey this year will operate within an 8 week window between 04 March and 26 April 2024. During this period colleges will be able to operate their survey for a period of 6 weeks (most likely on both sides of the Spring break). Note: this window can be flexed further on either side to accommodate the timetabling of ‘block release’ student groups in college.
  2. It is felt this provides the most flexibility and should help promote response rates as there would not be an overlap with student president elections and other events such as exam leave.

Results reporting

  1. Electronic summary result templates will be sent out to colleges in February 2024. An example template is attached (Annex C). Summary survey results should be returned to data returns at SFC, email: by Friday 7 June 2024.

2023-24 SSES milestones

  1. SSES Milestones are as follows:
  • Survey of current students by colleges March – April 2024.
  • Colleges return summary survey results to SFC by 07 June 2024.
  • SSES publication October 2024.
  • Guidance for the SSES in March – April 2024 by January 2025.

Further information

  1. Please contact Kenny Wilson, Senior Policy/Analysis Officer, Funding Policy (Data Collections) for further information, tel: 0131 313 6509, email:

Steve McDonald
Chief Funding and Information Officer

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