The Union of UEA Students has voted against a boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS). The vote on this issue took place at the first union council of 2016-2017, on October 20th and was passed by a majority of 49 percent.
The boycott was proposed as an amendment to motion 1951: Market Reforms in Higher Education. This motion was brought before council by Finn Northrup, Non-Portfolio Officer, and supported by Theodore Antoniou-Phillips, Undergraduate Education Officer.
The motion opposes the newly introduced Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and states that allowing higher education institutions to increase tuition fees “creates further marketization within [the] sector.”
The motion also claimed that “multiple higher education institutions have laid out plans to begin raising fees even for current students,” and that: “tuition fees as they stand… have an adverse effect on student mental health and force working class and poor students to alter their choices at university.”
The motion added that “marketisation is one of the greatest threats to our education system at all levels,” and the union have resolved “to fight against the TEF through lobbying, demos and protesting,” and “to oppose any rise in tuition fees linked to the TEF.”
Council reached its guillotine time of 10.30pm and a vote on the motion had to be delayed until the following session.
However, the amendment, Say No to the Boycott/Sabotage of the NSS, proved controversial, with councilors divided over the issue, and debating fiercely. The amendment was proposed by Theodore Antoniou-Phillips and supported by Amy Rust, Campaigns and Democracy Officer.
The amendment states that “if we want to make meaningful change to the Government’s proposals, we should be focused on lobbying MPs and the HE Bill now, not planning a strategy that might have an impact when it’s too late.”
Council heard speeches in favour of the amendment from Antoniou- Phillips and Rust, and in opposition from Jo Swo, Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer, and Madeleine Colledge, Postgraduate Officer.
The National Student Survey is taken annually by final year students and is intended for use by the government as a pillar of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the body set up to measure attainment by universities.
Institutions that score highly in the NSS, alongside good graduate employment rates, will be among the first permitted to increase their tuition fees beyond the current rates.
However, the union voted “to oppose any boycott or sabotage of the NSS.”
Commenting on the result, Theodore Antoniou-Phillips said: “results from the NSS have repeatedly given ammunition to both SU officers and school level representatives to make things better for students- improving everything from organisation and management of courses to assessment and feedback and library resources.”
He continued: “an organised boycott would have harmed the SU’s aims this year of focusing on students’ academic interests.”
Commenting on the decision, Amy Rust said: “the Government has already announced that it will put up fees regardless of the NSS. The proposed boycott would have distracted us and the NUS from the important work of lobbying and campaigning against fee rises.”