Oxford University Joins Student Survey Boycott

Students vote to sabotage government plans. Photograph: NUS press office

Oxford University Student’s Union has joined 20 other university unions boycotting the NSS (National Student Survey), in bid to disrupt new education reforms and a rise in tuition fees.

The National Student Survey is a voluntary questionnaire that final-year undergraduate students fill out to give their feedback on the learning experiences of their course. The NSS is now set to become an integral aspect of the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) – a core part of the HE reforms.

TEF is supposed to determine teaching quality and it does so by measuring aspects like student satisfaction (NSS), graduate employment data (in the form of the DLHE), and retention rates. These metrics have been criticised for not being really designed to measure teaching quality and instead encouraging marketisation of education.

By these reforms, TEF results will be used to allow high-scoring universities to raise their tuition fees even beyond the current £9000 cap and students believe that by participating in the survey they will promote the tuition hike.

"If they(universities) really valued our feedback, they wouldn’t be participating in the TEF and embarking on increasing tuition fee hikes," said Eden Bailey, vice-president of Oxford University Student Union (OUSU).

“The University has student feedback through their own surveys, such as the Student Barometer, so encouraging students to complete the NSS isn’t about valuing student views, but is simply a veiled way of getting students to fuel fee rises,” he said.

Their rating “will be used from Year Three [2018] onwards to inform differentiated fees”, the Department for Education announced in September.

Sorana Vieru, vice-president higher education at the National Union of Students, slammed the TEF in her article in The Guardian, calling it "a tool by which to raise tuition fees, taking a poorly thought through approximation of teaching quality."

"Don’t allow your feedback to be used against you, don’t fill in the NSS," she wrote.

In April 2016 National Union of Students (NUS) held debate on the matter and then voted to campaign against the reforms using innovative strategy of boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS) and the Destination of Leavers from higher education survey (DLHE). Since then more than twenty different students’ unions are now part of the boycott.


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