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Top specialist institutions for student satisfaction (NSS)

It was a record year for student satisfaction according to the latest National Student Survey (NSS), which asked 312,000 final-year students to rate their undergraduate course.

As well as unis, the survey covers special interest institutions offering degrees, from drama and art to land studies. 

By 'specialists' we're talking about institutions that offer degree courses and expertise focused around one subject area an art college or conservatoire, for instance or the smaller university colleges, many of which are characterised by their particular specialist discipline.

Below are the top performers including a bit about them and comments from their current students  you can also take a look to see which universities and further education colleges came top for student satisfaction in our round-ups.

Top for student satisfaction

1. The University of Law (97%)

University of Law

The University of Law is the UK's largest law school spread across seven locations, offering both full-time and part-time LLB programmes (including online). Tutors are all qualified lawyers, while the University has connections with a wide network of law firms to assist students in obtaining experience and graduate opportunities. 

2. St Mary’s University College, Belfast (95%)

St Mary's University College Belfast

A small and specialist college with a distinctive faith-based ethos, degrees from St Mary's are validated by Queen’s University Belfast. The College provides teacher education programmes, in English and in Irish, as well as a liberal arts degree programme.

3. Courtauld Institute of Art (94%)

Courtauld Institute of Art

An independent college of the University of London, the Courtauld Institute is a centre for studying the history and conservation of art and architecture.

4. Harper Adams University (92%)

Harper Adams University

Comments from our Which? University Student Survey:

'Parties are out of this world, no where parties like Harper – be prepared to party in your wellies though! Accommodation on campus was above standard that I first expected and the catered students are very well looked after.'

'Very close-knit community, where the majority of people are from an agricultural background therefore giving a large sense of family (although it also has its downsides – if you do something stupid/funny everyone will know within a couple of hours!!).'

5. Heythrop College, University of London (91%)

Heythrop College

Heythrop College is a specialist college of the University of London which focuses on philosophy and theology courses. At 400 years old, it’s the oldest of UOL's colleges, located in the plush Kensington Square area of west London.

The specialist treatment

If you like the idea of being part of a close-knit student community where you can immerse yourself in your chosen subject and study with people who share your passion, a specialist college could offer you a great student experience. 

If you're interested in creative and performing arts courses and colleges, here's what you need to know about portfolios, interviews and auditions. Not all specialist colleges advertise their courses on Ucas, either. The conservatoires (which include have a separate admissions service called Cukas, while others will only accept direct applications.

What is student 'satisfaction'?

The National Student Survey (NSS) asks final-year students to reflect on various aspects of their student learning experience, including assessment and feedback, personal development and how well the course is organised, and give an overall rating. From this student satisfaction rating we calculate a mean average student score per university based on how students as a whole responded.

Student satisfaction scores are a good indicator but don't always tell you everything. Different courses within a college may offer different teaching and learning experiences, and survey responses could be from a relatively low (though still valid) number of students. You can see all universities and colleges ranked by student score when you search on Which? University.


Note: institutions included must offer at least one full-time undergraduate first degree course.

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