What was the protest against the NSS all about?

The Student Assembly Against Austerity came out to protest against the National Student Survey

The weather was cold, the sky was grey, but the activists protesting against the National Student Survey were in high spirits.

They were objecting to the survey as they perceive it as a tool of the government’s to justify policies harmful to students. Some asserted that while the survey was a good thing in principle, they believed the current political climate made it imperative that the survey be opposed.

The results of the survey are going to be used to rate universities into “bronze”, “silver” and “gold” bands. Universities that get higher ratings will be allowed to raise tuition fees for new students, which critics say will penalize students who work hard to get into a good university. Defenders of the survey meanwhile, say that the boycott is the wrong approach, and that it will only serve to create a skewed set of figures for the next generation of students when they are choosing their place of study.

We questioned the assembled on whether they were just opposing the survey due to far left wing leanings; after all, there were several self-proclaimed Marxist newspapers resting upon their table. One student, Dave, claimed that the newspapers were only there to fill up the space and that the really important parts were the leaflets on the NSS and the sign-up sheet.

There were dozens of sign-ups to the regular newsletter the protesters promised. We signed the leaflet, and the anti-NSS activists were very eager to talk about the sign-ups. Douglas, a 3rd Year, pointed to a trio of people standing near the table in particular and claimed that these were people he ‘didn’t know but were so enthusiastic about the cause once convinced that they had taken it upon themselves to join in the publicity’.

The National Student Survey has been controversial across the country this year. Kent Union has put up posters and sent out several emails encouraging participation in the survey. On Thursday the 26th of January, in an email to students, Kent gave a 10 pound amazon voucher to respondent Shane Newton; accompanying it was a plea for students to take the survey whenever they had a spare 10 or 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, London has the scene of a larger protest earlier in the year.