NSS Article - 22/01/2017

This is the article I wrote on behalf of the Full Time Officer team that was published in SCAN. 


Will you boycott the NSS?


With major reform of rules around tuition fees and the wider world of higher education on the horizon, the National Union of Students is calling for a boycott of the National Student Survey. NUS is calling for the boycott because of government plans to link results of the survey to universities’ ability to increase tuition fees. Lancaster University Students’ Union has not adopted an official policy to boycott the survey, and is leaving to students to make up their own minds on whether or not to complete the survey. Here, the union’s Full-Time Officer Team explains more…


If you’re a final-year student you’ll soon be invited to complete the National Student Survey, which may present you with a dilemma.


On one hand, you may wish to give feedback on your degree at Lancaster or even just take advantage of the incentives on offer (free food). But on the other hand, by not completing the survey you have the chance to send a powerful message to the Government on the issues of free education and equality.


NUS has coordinated a boycott campaign, but we feel there are still unanswered questions on the impact of a mass refusal to complete the survey.


Last year, as part of the Democratic Review, you told us that you wanted to be involved in making big decisions. So when faced with big questions around national political action we took steps to try and gather information that would best inform our members so they could be involved in this decision.


That’s why we’re leaving it up to our members to decide for themselves what to do when the survey opens later this month.


NUS says you should join the boycott because they believe the survey is the only place where students have any power and leverage left to force a rethink about fees.


According to the NUS, the government has long advocated the NSS as a tool for driving up market competition between universities through benchmarking and league tables. Survey feedback is already factored into university league table scores. Now, the government wants to use some of the results in the NSS as measures of teaching quality in their new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). This rating is intrinsically linked to the ability to raise fees. 


As an officer team we were open to the idea of our union becoming part of the national boycott, but wanted NUS to produce a full assessment of any risks attached to the action and for an Equality Impact Assessment to consider if a boycott would have a negative effect on specific groups of people.


That work still hasn’t been completed, which is why we’re leaving it to individual members to decide whether they want to be part of the national boycott.


This is an issue that has created debate with our team of six Full-Time Officers, and we know there will be a wide range of opinions within our membership.


As a union, we remain committed to fighting for free education and opposing further increases in tuition fees.


But as team we have differing views on whether NSS is an effective way of improving student experience, and there’s a concern that a boycott could make it harder for us to understand the needs of our members in future years.


So it’s over to you. Does the future of education mean more to you than free food? Will the boycott make a difference? Could a boycott do more harm than good? There’s more information to help you decide at www.lusu.co.uk/NSSinfo