Cambridge’s boycott of National Student Survey is successful
The boycott was organised by the NUS in an attempt to obstruct rises in tuition fees
Cambridge University has not been included in the results of this year’s National Student Survey for the first time.
Eleven other institutions, including Oxford, Manchester, Sheffield, UCL, KCL, Liverpool and Bristol, have also been omitted from the final table. This follows a boycott organised by the National Union of Students across 25 universities, on the grounds that the findings on student satisfaction will be used, alongside other factors, to calculate the Teaching Excellence Framework. Those awarded a gold, silver or bronze TEF rating will be permitted to raise tuition fees above the current £9,000 per year cap.
The rate of response dropped this year by 4%, down from 312,000 student responses in 2016, to 300,000 in 2017. This is in spite of attempts to widen student participation in the survey this year – 446,000 were targeted in 2017, in comparison to 431,000 in 2016.
Amatey Doku, former CUSU president and incoming NUS vice-president for higher education, applauded the outcome: “The Government wanted to use today’s NSS results to allow universities which scored highly to raise fees from £9,000 to over £10,000 by 2020 as part of their draconian reforms to higher education.
“Our membership made it clear to us that they found this unacceptable and demanded we campaign to sever any link between their crude Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and a rise in tuition fees which would hit students hard.”
“Figures released today demonstrate just how easily this data can be skewed and how unreliable they are as a measure of teaching quality within this framework. This serves as a reminder that students are opposed to soaring tuition fees and are ready to use their power to challenge any ill-thought changes to the sector which will ultimately see them losing out.”
Nonetheless, the extent to which the boycott will meaningfully obstruct rises in tuition fees is disputed. The results of the National Student Survey will be used alongside various other measures, including graduate employment rates, to calculate the Teaching Excellence Framework.
Chris Husbands, chairman of the TEF, has affirmed that the findings of the NSS are not an “accurate proxy for teaching quality”, and consequently will have a minor role in determining TEF scores. The Department of Education has also insisted that the TEF will be formulated by an analysis of the results of National Student Surveys from previous years.
The DofE has stated that it will make sure that “no provider suffers disadvantage as a result of the boycott.”