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Increasing participation in PTES shows commitment to quality in a growing area

10 Mar 2020 | Jonathan Neves The Advance HE Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) is the only UK sector-wide measure of the experiences of PGT students, and is currently enjoying record levels of participation. Our Head of Business Intelligence and Surveys, Jonathan Neves, explores the reasons behind its popularity.

For students, achieving postgraduate qualifications can hold the key to differentiating themselves among a rapidly growing field of graduates, as employers increasingly look for higher level qualifications for jobs at ‘graduate level’.

How fair this is, or isn’t, is up for debate, but the importance of Postgraduate degrees in today’s job market is patently on an upward curve.

Clearly there has been a change in the landscape, with the introduction of Postgraduate loans helping to drive increased and widening participation.

The most recent HESA data tells us that Postgraduate Taught volumes are increasing strongly, with 2018/19 enrolments up 13% since 2015/16, compared to a smaller 4.6% increase in undergraduate enrolments over the same period.

At undergraduate level it might be expected that a young person, often moving away from home, will partly base their choice of university on the town or city in which the institution is based. Therefore, much recruitment activity has a social or geographical aspect to it. At PGT level however, the main focus is often on the academic reputation of the institution and the course.

Known unknowns

The impact of Brexit on student numbers coming from the EU is not known and is difficult to predict, so the importance of attracting fee paying PGT students from outside the EU becomes increasingly important for institutions looking to protect their income streams. Full-fee paying students from outside the EU currently comprise 27.7% of all PGT students in the UK.

In this landscape, the ability of HE institutions to measure the quality of their Postgraduate provision becomes vital, not just to improve teaching standards, but also to be able to attract students in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

The Advance HE Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) is the only UK sector-wide measure of the experiences of PGT students, and is currently enjoying record levels of participation. In the 2020 round of PTES 113 institutions have registered to take part, the highest number since PTES began in 2009. PTES has also enjoyed strong and increasing response rates, reflective of some impressive commitment from participating institutions to encourage buy-in from staff and PGT students alike.

High participation and response rates in sector-wide surveys are more often associated with compulsory, regulatory surveys in the undergraduate world, hence the strong levels of participation in PTES are perhaps unusual for voluntary surveys in the sector.

By participating in PTES, institutions are taking advantage of a key opportunity to measure the excellence of their provision. Participation itself demonstrates a commitment to enhancement, and provides an opportunity to engage and involve students in how their feedback is listened to and acted upon.

Participating institutions receive fast-turnaround, confidential results compared against a wide range of benchmark results, designed specifically to drive enhancement of provision.

Although PTES is positioned as an enhancement survey, participating institutions can publicise their own results, both internally and externally and may use them in recruitment strategies if they wish.

With the expansion and increased focus on the Postgraduate sector, how institutions participating in PTES use their results will be vital in helping them stand out and succeed in the global HE marketplace.


The Advance HE Surveys and Insights Conference 2020 takes place on 29 April at Sheffield Hallam University, a great opportunity to discuss and debate strategies to increase student response rates and engagement. Find out more and book your place here.

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