A referendum was held on the 19/01/2018. The referendum asked members of Central SU ‘Should Central SU Support a Boycott of the National Student Survey?’
The results of the referendum are as follows:
• 170 valid votes were cast meaning quoracy was met (5% of Central SU members and/or 50 members whichever is the higher number)
• ‘Yes’ received 147 votes and 86.47% of the vote.
• ‘No’ received 23 votes and 13.53% of the vote.
What does this mean?
Central Students' Union are supporting a boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS). The NSS is a survey sent out to all 3rd years across the country, gathering feedback about student experience, and is also being used as a metric in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The TEF is used to judge a university's performance resulting in the institution being awarded a gold, silver or bronze rating. The TEF is supposedly being used to measure the quality of the teaching at each institution, but is also feeding in to a competitive higher education market. Though the TEF currently has no effect on fees until 2019/20, in the future there is potential that the universities awarded with 'gold' ratings may be able to raise their fees. This will mean that less economically advantaged young people will perhaps be more hesitant in considering attending top quality universities as the fees could be raised year upon year.
Regardless of the possible connection of the TEF to fee increases, the use of the NSS as a metric is highly problematic. The higher education reforms are seeking to further marketisation within institutions, treating universities like businesses and labeling students as 'consumers'. Higher education policy appears to focus on 'value for money', treating the student experience as a transaction rather than a holistic experience which can enrich a students' life. When challenged with marketisation, universities are often forced into competing in league tables, spending money on marketing which can often be about engaging potential students in an image of the university rather than improving the educational experience. This means that universities will end up scrimping with possible job cuts and course closures as universities jump through hoops set out by the TEF. The focus on students and staff will be lessened with the attention turned to promotion of the institution.
What are we intending to do?
We do not want to be complicit in these changes. We are calling for a boycott of the NSS, all you have to do is not fill in the National Student Survey. We have recognised that a main concern from students in third year is that they will not be able to give important feedback to further improve the university, courses and teaching. Central SU have listened, and provided you with an alternative student survey! This should be accessible to any 3rd year student at Central, with a link sent to your inbox from firstname.lastname@example.org (check your junk box if you can't find it). It will look like this:
This feedback will be anonymous and will be reviewed by staff at Central just like the NSS was. Central SU understands the value in student feedback, so it is highly encouraged that as many 3rd year students participate as possible.
Central SU are not alone in this boycott, and will be joining the following SUs across the country to remove student feedback from the government's decision to marketise higher education.
• Sheffield, UCL, Manchester, SOAS, Oxford, Cambridge, UAL, Abertay.
If you have any more questions surrounding the boycott, do drop me an email at email@example.com or contact Jake the SU president at firstname.lastname@example.org.