Manchester’s NSS boycott was so successful that we weren’t included in this year’s rankings
The National Student Survey was boycotted due to its links with rising tuition fees
The National Student Survey, or NSS is a survey given to final year university students to rate their time at university. Last year, instead of continuing with the rating system, the NSS used the results of the survey to 'rank' universities. The ranking system gives universities either a gold, silver or bronze rating, with gold universities being able to charge higher tuition fees.
Manchester was one of 25 Student Unions in the UK that boycotted the NSS, with Emma Atkins, Manchester SU's Education officer fronting the #Dontfillitin campaign. The boycott was hugely successful, with over half of Manchester's students opting to skip out on the survey, making the results unusable.
Despite the great results, we saw Manchester re-open the survey in May of this year. In response to this move, many students who had already filled in surveys retracted them, proving that Manchester's choice to re-open the NSS was not driven by student demand, and instead likely focused on the financial element of the NSS.
Naa Acquah, Manchester's previous General Secretary said of the link between the survey and tuition fees: "We lobbied the university not to opt in to the TEF but money is the modus operandi. They feel they need a higher tuition fee and the let’s be honest, so does every other university. Tuition fees will rise with inflation, next year it’s £9,250 but in a few years, it will be £10,000. I know for a fact if the TEF wasn’t linked to raising tuition fees barely any universities would opt in."
However, despite difficulties, the campaign was hugely successful. Manchester, along with 12 other UK universities was omitted from the NSS ranking table, following the boycott of the campaign. Other major institutions omitted from the rankings were Cambridge, Oxford and Sheffield.
Emma Atkins, Manchester's Education Officer and a strong influence with Manchester's boycott campaign said of the success: "We are really proud that Manchester's was one of the twelve Student Unions which managed a successful boycott of the NSS, and it clearly demonstrates that our students don't want to be a part of the TEF and it's link to increasing tuition fees.
Thirteen other unions including Sussex, Reading and University Arts London also boycotted and despite not getting void results all had really strong campaigns and reduced their NSS response rates by at least 10 per cent. This meant one in three students in the country refused to fill in the NSS.
The government should take note and understand students are a force to be reckoned with. The boycott already secured a delay in the link to fees and an independent review of the TEF is now going to be carried out, but that's not enough. Students don't want their feedback linked to fees and will keep fighting the TEF until this link is completely severed."
The Department for Education also stated in response to the results that no university will be negatively affected by student boycotts of the NSS, but it was not exactly clear how this would happen, said Camille Kandiko Howson, senior lecturer in higher education at King’s College London. “It will certainly give institutions more excuses to appeal when they do not get the result they want,” said Dr Kandiko Howson. She added: “It will be difficult for those assessing the TEF to make distinctions between those with good scores and those who did not return enough results.”