Major HEFCE study shows UK university students have become more satisfied over time

03 July 2014

The first large-scale analysis of the National Student Survey (NSS) looks at trends in the responses of more than 2 million final-year students over nine years [Note 1]. Overall student satisfaction has increased, but there is considerable variation between subjects of study, and between different student characteristics such as ethnicity.

‌‌The study by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of the UK higher education funding bodies [Note 2] also confirms that the NSS provides consistent and robust results. 

The analysis reveals a number of interesting insights from the last nine years: 

  • Students have become more satisfied overall.
  • The largest variation in satisfaction scores within each year is seen within subject of study; for example, Creative Art and Design students have been less satisfied over time while Mathematical Sciences students have been more satisfied [Note 3].
  • When other student characteristics are taken into account, Black African students are more satisfied overall when compared with White students, while Black Caribbean students are less satisfied [Note 4].
  • Students who have declared a disability have been less satisfied than those with no known disability [Note 5]. 

There has been a 39 per cent increase in the proportion of students completing the survey online since 2005. The study also shows that the proportion of students who tick the same answer for every question has gradually increased over time, from 1 per cent in 2005 to 5.4 per cent in 2013. However, these increases have had no effect on the trends in student satisfaction over time [Note 6]. 

The NSS data can be explored further using an interactive tool available on the HEFCE web-site. [Note 7]

Review of the NSS

The study findings are published alongside an independent report on the purpose and effectiveness of the NSS [Note 8]. 

The report concludes that the NSS remains a valued, valid and reliable tool, and that its use has extended from its original purpose to inform student choice about the quality and standards of teaching, to a more profound role in supporting quality enhancement. It makes a number of recommendations for developing the survey, including the addition of student engagement questions and the development of a set of criteria against which existing and future questions could be considered. 

Professor Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said: 

‘The NSS is an invaluable source of intelligence for universities and colleges. It drives curriculum improvement, and enhances the quality of the learning experience for millions of students. It also plays a key role in helping to inform the choices of prospective students. 

‘The reports we are publishing today confirm the robustness of the NSS, and the value it adds to UK higher education. HEFCE will now work with the other UK funding bodies, universities and colleges, and students, to make refinements for the future.’ 

Professor Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University and Chair of the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group (HEPISG), which has advised on the ongoing development of the NSS, said: 

‘I welcome these reports. They not only provide us with a comprehensive source of data and information about the NSS, but also confirm it as a valuable and robust tool for gathering student feedback and driving institutional change. 

‘HEPISG and the UK funding bodies will now consider the recommendations in the NSS Review. 

‘Any major changes to the NSS will be based on robust piloting and cognitive testing with a view to introducing a revised NSS by 2017.’


  1. In order to present results that are consistent and comparable the analysis looks at the core population of students that have been part of the survey cohort since 2005: students registered at English, Welsh and Northern Irish higher education institutions who are not NHS-funded.
  2. The four UK higher education funding bodies are: the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Department for Employment and Learning Northern Ireland.
  3. Currently, satisfaction levels across all subjects are high. We are investigating whether the differences merit further analysis or action by HEFCE or by institutions.
  4. Building on previous analysis (Differences in degree outcomes: key findings, HEFCE 2014/03), HEFCE will undertake further work on a range of outcomes such as attainment, retention and satisfaction across a range of groups to better understand the issues affecting these groups, taking action where necessary.
  5. The Government has asked HEFCE to review provision and support for disabled students in the higher education sector. We will be doing this over the coming months, working closely with institutions, the NUS, and others.
  6. The act of choosing the same answer to every question is known as acquiescence bias or ‘yea-saying’. In 2005 only 1.0 per cent of respondents were found to be yea-saying; by 2013 this had risen to 5.4 per cent. This is much higher than would be expected even after accounting for the very high levels of satisfaction and strong relationship between the answers to different questions, but the analysis concludes that so far this has not materially affected the overall results.
  7. A full ten-year NSS data set analysis, including the results from 2013-14, will be available in 2015.
  8. NatCen Social Research, the Institute of Education, University of London, and the Institute for Employment Studies, ‘Review of the National Student Survey’. The report was commissioned by the four higher education funding bodies.

Page last updated 3 July 2014

Benefits of a College Education

When it comes to making life choices that will determine the course of yours, few are better investments than a college education. From better income and insurance to greater social, professional and personal opportunities, a college degree is far more than just a certificate on the wall.
Story by Kelli Fuqua Hart 

It’s a true and simple statement – Education Pays. And although it has been a hot topic of debate in the last few years, the fact still remains that those with a college degree aren’t losing nearly as much ground during our recession as their less-educated peers.

With an overall better chance at finding employment, as well as receiving higher wages, those who choose to continue their education post-high school are making an investment in themselves that will reap a lifetime of benefits, and not just financially.

Studies have shown that having a college degree is not only linked to higher pay, but to healthier lifestyle choices, better employer-provided health care coverage, overall job satisfaction, decreased levels of stress and increased job stability.

And because there are so many educational options, geared to fit any age and schedule, more and more individuals are strapping on their backpacks and heading to college!

In today’s economy, the people who are more likely to be employed are people with college degrees. How much more likely? Twice as likely as people who have only a high school education.

One reason for this, according to Shanley Hill of Taylor College, is that, “an education provides someone with the knowledge necessary to contribute to the ‘national team’ of Americans that operate and work together on a daily basis.”

Hill goes on to say, “It also allows the chance to pursue employment opportunities with higher salaries and benefits and allows any individual to grow within a corporation and achieve new positions once they have mastered and completed various levels of educational degrees to retain the knowledge necessary for success.”

Taylor College currently offers all programs related to the healthcare industry, including Associate Programs in Nursing and Physical Therapy Assistance and career preparation courses in Medical Assistance and Phlebotomy, all of which directly benefit Central Florida because of how dominant the healthcare industry is in this area and the number of jobs now available. Awarding over 2,200 successful graduates to date, Taylor College takes pride in producing motivated, knowledgeable individuals who are career-bound and immediately eligible for employment – and in some instances, in as little as a few weeks!

Learning OnLine 

For some future students, it is not the length of the program that presents concern but the location. Those working full-time, taking care of children and even those who simply cannot manage in a classroom environment, can look to online courses as a solution.

Capella University is an accredited university with a vibrant community of learners and a faculty of committed and engaging instructors. This 100 percent online campus offers programs in Business & Technology, Counseling and Psychology, Education, Health Care and Public Service. From certificate programs to doctoral degrees, Capella’s staff and faculty seeks to maximize students’ personal and professional potentials.

According to the University website, nearly 40,000 degrees have been awarded with a reported satisfaction rate of 95 percent amongst alumni. Capella students range in age from 19 to 89, with an average age of 40 years old, making the dream of going to college or advancing one’s education level an obtainable reality.

In the Classroom 

Obtaining a degree in the classroom is attainable as well. Ranked in the top 10 percent of all colleges in the United States, Ocala’s own College of Central Florida, or CF, has been serving students and its community for decades. Offering certificate programs, associate’s degrees and now bachelor’s of Applied Science in both Business and Organizational Management and Early Childhood Education, CF makes education possible, affordable and flexible. With day, evening and online courses, students can advance their education while still managing their current day-to-day schedule and routine.

CF’s faculty understands student concerns and provides guidance and assistance in solving student issues. When it comes to tuition, the CF Foundation can be of great benefit, having provided $700,000 in scholarships to CF students. Likewise, CF offers free tutoring and workshops on success strategies for students who need these resources.

Upon graduating, finding employment is priority one. CF has partnered with the Workforce Connection, called “Patriot Jobs,” where, according to CF’s Marketing and Public Relations Director, Lois Brauckmuller, “students can get guidance in resume preparation, job interview techniques and help applying for these available jobs.”

CF offers such a variety of courses, resources, scholarships, etc., yet they still find a way to follow through with each student when it comes to preparation, gaining employment and becoming an active leader in the community. Brauckmuller adds, “Our vision is to be the first choice provider for higher education in our community.”

Think having a college degree is a commonality? Think again! In Marion County alone, less than 11 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree. According to Molly Andersen of Rasmussen College, college graduates have an annual earning potential that is double that of an individual with just a high school education or GED.

According to Andersen, “More than 85 percent of Rasmussen College graduates are working in their chosen field of study or continuing their education.” From certificate programs to bachelor’s level degrees in Design, Health Science, Business, Education, Justice Studies, Technology and Nursing, Rasmussen offers course work in today’s most demanding fields.

With both campus classroom options and the evolution of online learning, Rasmussen students can graduate sooner than other traditional timelines and can pursue jobs faster with streamlined programs. In as little as 18 months, a Rasmussen student can graduate with their bachelor’s degree and immediately enter the workforce, eliminating the all too common, “this is going to take too long” excuse to not get an education.

Out-of-Town Colleges within Reach

At one time, it was necessary to either move out of Ocala or commute to attend a bachelor’s level program. Out of town colleges, such as the University of Florida, were among the most popular choices for students, but the distance made attending impossible for some. Today, thanks to valuable partnerships between the College of Central Florida and six accredited universities, A.A. or A.S. Graduates can transition “seamlessly” to a four-year program without leaving the Ocala campus. One of those partners is the University of Central Florida.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, UCF has reached an enrollment of more than 60,000 students. UCF students, according to Tanya Armstrong, “offer as much to UCF as UCF can offer the students – a diversity of backgrounds and cultures, life experiences, talents, skills, aspirations, and a thirst for learning – all of which bring added value to the university experience.”

Ocala’s UCF campus first opened its doors in the fall of 2002, with its first program in Elementary Education. Today, the UCF Ocala campus offers 11 undergraduate programs and one Graduate degree program.  With more than 200 students taking classes on its campus, UCF Ocala makes it easy for students in Citrus, Levy and Marion counties to get a quality education. And over 20 UCF programs are offered entirely online. These courses are ideal for students who cannot travel to the UCF Ocala campus to take classes or to its main campus in Orlando. Students appreciate the option to take some or all of their courses online, enabling them to earn a UCF degree without the limitations of time or location.

Armstrong goes on to address the issue of tuition. She explains, “So many students rely on some form of financial aid to cover the full cost of their education. Tuition increases, rising costs of textbooks, fees and living expenses have made paying for a college degree more difficult. The average college student will graduate owing more than $25,000 in debt.” However, a diligent student can find ample money to cover the cost. Most students don’t realize that thousands of scholarships go un-awarded because students simply don’t apply. These resources are out there and campus advisors are available to assist students in uncovering these funds.

Core-Value Education 

In addition to accreditation, cost, location and courses, many students give much consideration to a school’s core values. Saint Leo University realizes the importance of developing their curriculum with these values in mind and has infused a very specific set of values into each of their courses. And according to Jo-Ann Johnson, Staff Writer and Media Coordinator for Saint Leo, “Our students will find at least one core value discussed in each course. Those values are excellence, personal development, respect, integrity, community and responsible stewardship.”

Saint Leo University is a Catholic, liberal arts school. Established in 1889, the University has grown from a “campus in the rolling hills of Central Florida to an institution of international consequence.” In the fall of 2012 alone, Saint Leo enrolled nearly 16,000 students, of which 2,950 were pursuing an undergraduate degree completely online. Johnson points out, “Saint Leo is a leader in online learning.”

In addition to campus classrooms, being able to obtain an excellent education in a flexible manner produces graduates who, according to Johnson, are “better prospects for employment, better equipped with critical thinking skills, more exposed to a wide variety of disciplines and are lifelong learners.”

And with business being a popular major amongst current students, Saint Leo now offers a Doctor of Business Administration, which is heavily on-ine focused. This option allows students to further their education post-master’s and in the comfort of their own space for flexibility and convenience.

Graduate Degrees

And on the subject of graduate level courses – is there any value of continuing one’s education? Absolutely. Students who want to fine-tune their knowledge of a subject are perfect candidates for a graduate degree. For example, a person who studied psychology as an undergrad can dig even deeper in their field by focusing on specific components, such as cognitive or physiological areas of psychology. By doing so, the graduate obviously gains a deeper understanding of specific topics, but they are also putting themselves at the top of the list of recruits in that field.

Likewise, employers are more likely to hire individuals with a graduate degree, even if it’s outside of the specific requirements for that job, simply because having earned a graduate degree can reflect a more diligent, disciplined, overall socially adequate person. Employers like to hire people who voluntarily went the extra mile to learn more and better themselves, both academically and socially.

Webster University has a Metropolitan Campus here in Ocala, making it easier for Central Florida graduates to further their education without having to leave home. According to Mike Fallon of Webster University, “Starting salaries are around 20 percent higher for those with a master’s degree when compared to those only holding a bachelor’s degree.”

Webster University Ocala Metro offers graduate degrees in Business Administration, Counseling, Human Resources Development or Management and Management and Leadership. Fallon adds, “We offer competitively priced, non-traditional, evening graduate degree programs that are perfect for the busy adult. Webster University is a tier 1, accredited, global institution and a leader in higher education.”

With an average class size of 10, students receive personal attention from world-class faculty who are experts in their respective fields and assistance from a staff that puts students’ needs first. Webster University prepares its students through career services, resume writing and interview skills. Likewise, potential jobs are posted on campus and they invite students to numerous regional job fairs. For the university’s counseling programs, students connect with potential employers through the internship portion of their degree.

When a student graduates from Webster University, they leave with extensive and specific skills and knowledge, confidence to obtain employment and succeed in their field and a familiar resource pool of people whom they’ve connected with both personally and professionally throughout their enrollment.

So whether it’s a certificate in a specific skill set, an undergraduate degree in a popular major or a continued educational path through graduate school, investing in education is investing in yourself, your future and your community. Set yourself apart. Decide what motivates you, intrigues you and drives your will to succeed. Reach out to your local campuses and find out what path is right for you. In as little as a few months, you can look back and say, “I wish I had…” or you can be proudly saying, “I’m glad I did!”

Financing a College Education Infographic

Financing a College Education Infographic

You got accepted into the school of your dreams, you’re moving out of your parents’ house, everything is lining up perfectly, and the last thing you want to talk about is money. Let’s be honest, everyone knows college can be expensive; however, not a lot of people know how to prepare a budget to be able to overcome the financial burdens of going to college. Luckily this infographic will give you a step-by-step rundown on managing college expenses, so you don’t have to survive on $0.50 packs of noodles and powdered drink mix for the next few years. The Financing a College Education Infographic will help you pave the way to get you through college financially, and be successful after completing your college education.

How to get you through college financially

  • Start Planning Early. Students and their parents should begin thinking about financing a college education during the student’s sophomore year of high school.
  • Determine cost of tuition for each prospective school and expected contribution amounts.
  • Apply for grants and scholarships, using
  • Families should fill out their FAFSA application at the end of the student’s junior year.
  • Choose the school that will provide the most financial aid.
  • Determine the first-year earning potential for careers of interest and compare that to expected cost of loan repayments.
  • Start thinking about your credit. Open a savings account and contribute 10% of your income.
  • Pull your credit to make sure you don’t have a credit history due fraud or identity theft.
  • Start building credit by paying bills and rent on time. Use Experian RentBureau to manage and report rental payments to build your credit history.
  • Get a part-time or full time job for extra cash to help with living and college costs.
  • On campus jobs or paid internships may enhance learning and help earn credits or housing stipends.
  • Open one card and only charge what you can afford, and never pay your bill late.
  • Monitor your credit with Credit Concierge.
  • Calculate your monthly expenses and income. If there isn’t enough money left at the end of the month, it’s time to start cutting back.
  • Always have your student ID card with you to receive student discounts everywhere.
  • Couponing isn’t just for your parents. Use coupons and student discounts, buy generic, and buy used or discounted textbooks.
  • Use budgeting tools such as Mintcom and various online banking apps.
  • After your graduation give your budget a makeover. Factor in any additional income and payments.
  • Continue to live like a student. Use extra funds for savings or paying down existing debt.
  • Save! Save! Save! Coupons, discounts and moving back in with your parents can help.
  • Save money aside for an emergency fund.
  • Know your debt obligations, when your student loan payments begin, and if you qualify for refinancing or deferment.
  • Don’t open new credit cards or loan accounts unless it’s on absolute necessity.
  • Consider consolidating loans to lower interest rates and save money.
  • Many rewarding careers offer full or partial federal loan forgiveness.
  • Start investing immediately for your retirement.
  • Get health, auto, and home or renter’s insurance.
  • Continue to monitor your credit.


The impact of a college education on one’s life

Every student has been encouraged to go to college at some point in their life. Some parents even start grooming their children to aim for the Ivy Leagues as early as kindergarten. Though it is true that getting a degree is something many people aspire for, it’s still not unusual to question why going to college is such a big deal. How exactly does a college education affect one’s life?

Career is where a college degree has its most obvious impact. In college, students are given the chance to receive training and be exposed to experts in their areas of study. The college experience helps students prepare for a career in their particular fields and gives them an edge over those who have not had the same opportunity. In certain career tracks, those with post-graduate degrees become eligible for promotions and higher salaries.

Apart from becoming more attractive to employers when they graduate, college students also have the time to discover themselves while still in school. College is a unique time in one’s life where a person is no longer a child and yet is still somehow insulated from some aspects of the “real world”. A college student’s only job is to learn and question. By being exposed to so many different subjects, people, and philosophies, one can figure out what he believes in and what he wants to do.

Getting a college education will also affect one’s social life through meeting new people. Some of these people are professors, who can stand as mentors to those who want to excel in their fields, and fellow students, who can be lifelong friends or part of one’s professional network.

Can you afford Ivy League Education?

If you are the average American from a middle income family with eyes set on an Ivy League diploma, you probably already asked yourself: is it feasible to come up with the amount required to sustain four years in an Ivy League school?

According to an article published last February on the
“Harvard’s net cost of $18,277 made it more affordable than Princeton ($18,813), Yale ($18,934), Columbia ($19,073), University of Pennsylvania ($20,592), Dartmouth ($20,814), Brown ($22,743), and Cornell ($24,249).” Based solely on its affordability, let’s say you choose Harvard. Another significant factor of your college education is your living expenses. According to this table, the low-end budget of college living expenses in Boston is $16,515 annually. With Harvard costing $73,108 for four years and a low budget living expense in Boston amounting to $66,060 while enrolled, your total Ivy League education would rack up $139,168.

For such a daunting amount, you have to consider more than a single source of funds. The first thing you might want to do is sit your family down and discuss financial cooperation on their part. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s report on middle class Americans reveals that the median income for the average two-parent, two-child middle class family has a hypothetical capacity to save $4,200 a year for college education. If your parents start a college fund when you begin schooling at the age of seven, you should have $24,000 as jumpstart money in time for college. Your family can use this college savings calculator to know if you have saved enough for the college you are targeting.

A lot of students chip away at their college fund deficit by working part-time. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, an undergraduate with part-time employment clocks in about 35 hours a weeks and earns an average of $14,400 annually.

The remainder of your funds deficit is what would be typically covered by grants and student loans. Eligibility for these varies. Remember that the above information is based on statistics and your funds deficit is a function of your financial situation. If you want to learn more about financial aid strategies for college, consult this page.

The bottom line is Ivy League education is expensive, but not really out of reach. The initial amount may seem too huge to grasp, but if you break it down into manageable portions, it becomes easier to tackle. Consider the challenge of paying for college as an initiation into the real world.

David Charlow believes that a college education should be accessible to everyone. Get tips on how to simplify and systematize the college application process by visitingthis page.

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The Future of Universities - The digital degree
Jun 28th 2014 From the print edition

The staid higher-education business is about to experience a welcome earthquake

FROM Oxford’s quads to Harvard Yard and many a steel and glass palace of higher education in between, exams are giving way to holidays. As students consider life after graduation, universities are facing questions about their own future. The higher-education model of lecturing, cramming and examination has barely changed for centuries. Now, three disruptive waves are threatening to upend established ways of teaching and learning.

On one front, a funding crisis has created a shortfall that the universities’ brightest brains are struggling to solve. Institutions’ costs are rising, owing to pricey investments in technology, teachers’ salaries and galloping administrative costs. That comes as governments conclude that they can no longer afford to subsidise universities as generously as they used to. American colleges, in particular, are under pressure: some analysts predict mass bankruptcies within two decades.

Related topics

At the same time, a technological revolution is challenging higher education’s business model. An explosion in online learning, much of it free, means that the knowledge once imparted to a lucky few has been released to anyone with a smartphone or laptop. These financial and technological disruptions coincide with a third great change: whereas universities used to educate only a tiny elite, they are now responsible for training and retraining workers throughout their careers. How will they survive this storm—and what will emerge in their place if they don’t?

Finance 101

Universities have passed most of their rising costs on to students. Fees in private non-profit universities in America rose by 28% in real terms in the decade to 2012, and have continued to edge up. Public universities increased their fees by 27% in the five years to 2012. Their average fees are now almost $8,400 for students studying in-state, and more than $19,000 for the rest. At private colleges average tuition is more than $30,000 (two-thirds of students benefit from bursaries of one sort or another). American student debt adds up to $1.2 trillion, with more than 7m people in default.

For a long time the debt seemed worth it. For most students the “graduate premium” of better-paid jobs still repays the cost of getting a degree (see article). But not all courses pay for themselves, and flatter graduate salaries mean it takes students longer to start earning good money. Student enrolments in America, which rose from 15.2m in 1999 to 20.4m in 2011, have slowed, falling by 2% in 2012.

Small private colleges are now struggling to balance their books. Susan Fitzgerald of Moody’s, a credit-rating agency, foresees a “death spiral” of closures. William Bowen, a former president of Princeton University, talks of a “cost disease”, in which universities are investing extravagantly in shiny graduate centres, libraries and accommodation to attract students.

Politically, the mood has shifted too. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have said that universities face a poor outlook if they cannot lower their costs, marking a shift from the tendency of centre-left politicians to favour more public spending on academia. Cuts made by state governments have been partly offset by an increase in federal “Pell Grants” to poor students. But American universities will soon receive more money from tuition fees than from public funding (see chart 1).

In Asia tuition-fee inflation, running at around 5% for the past five years among leading universities, has stoked middle-class anxieties about the cost of college. Latin American countries fret about keeping fees low enough to expand the pool of graduates. In Europe high levels of subsidy, coupled with lower rates of college attendance, have insulated universities. But fees are going up: in 1998 Britain introduced annual tuition fees of just £1,000 (then $1,650), which by 2012 had increased to a maximum of £9,000 ($13,900).

Rising costs could scarcely strike at a worse time. Around the world demand for retraining and continuing education is soaring among workers of all ages. Globalisation and automation have shrunk the number of jobs requiring a middling level of education. Those workers with the means to do so have sought more education, in an attempt to stay ahead of the labour-demand curve. In America, higher-education enrolment by students aged 35 or older rose by 314,000 in the 1990s, but by 899,000 in the 2000s.

Improvements in machine intelligence are enabling automation to creep into new sectors of the economy, from book-keeping to retail. New online business models threaten sectors that had, until recently, weathered the internet storm. Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, of Oxford University, reckon that perhaps 47% of occupations could be automated in the next few decades. They find that the odds of displacement drop sharply as educational attainment rises.

iPad illuminatio mea

So demand for education will grow. Who will meet it? Universities face a new competitor in the form of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. These digitally-delivered courses, which teach students via the web or tablet apps, have big advantages over their established rivals. With low startup costs and powerful economies of scale, online courses dramatically lower the price of learning and widen access to it, by removing the need for students to be taught at set times or places. The low cost of providing courses—creating a new one costs about $70,000—means they can be sold cheaply, or even given away. Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School considers MOOCs a potent “disruptive technology” that will kill off many inefficient universities. “Fifteen years from now more than half of the universities [in America] will be in bankruptcy,” he predicted last year.

The first MOOC began life in Canada in 2008 as an online computing course. It was 2012, dubbed the “year of the MOOC”, that generated vatic excitement about the idea. Three big MOOC-sters were launched: edX, a non-profit provider run by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); Coursera, partnered with Stanford University; and Udacity, a for-profit co-founded by Sebastian Thrun, who taught an online computing course at Stanford. The big three have so far provided courses to over 12m students. Just under one-third are Americans, but edX says nearly half its students come from developing countries (see chart 2). Coursera’s new chief executive, Richard Levin, a former president of Yale University, plans an expansion focusing on Asia.

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