As universities encourage final-year students to complete the National Student Survey (NSS), The National Union of Students (NUS) is advocating a boycott. The survey is expected to measure the perceptions of final year undergraduates in higher education institutions. The NUS say survey results will be used to justify government plans to increase student tuition fees.
The NUS is campaigning against this pillar of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and asking eligible students to pledge to join the boycott, which will last until the survey’s April deadline.
The union claims that the survey will be used as a way to increase fees by “subterfuge” and would penalise smaller universities. NUS Vice President for Education Sorana Vieru argued students might have to be forced to pay annual fees that could rise above £12,000 by 2020. Vieru believes even a small percentage drop in student participation would send a clear message to the government.
20 NUS-affiliated university unions have expressed their support of the boycott, but the Union of UEA Students voted against it. The vote took place at the first union council of the 2016/7 academic year on October 20th and was passed by a majority of 49 per cent.
Commenting on those who opposed the boycott, Undergraduate Education Officer Theodore Antoniou-Phillips said: “an organised boycott would harm the SU’s aims of focusing on students’ academic interests.”
Continuing from this, UEA Student Union’s Campaigns and Democracy Officer, Amy Rust said she understands: “the Government has already announced that it will put up fees regardless of the NSS.”
According to the Higher Education Funding Council for England the TEF will assess the NSS and make room for improvements, which will “enhance the learning experiences for future students”. The TEF uses NSS data from 2016, 2017 and 2018 to rank universities’ teaching quality.
Institutions will then be ranked as either gold, silver or bronze. Universities ranked gold or silver will be able to increase their fees by up to 100 percent of the rate of inflation, while bronze-ranked universities will only be able to add a 50 per cent increase.