Dinner for schmucks: Sussex tries bribing NSS boycotters with meal vouchers

The National Student Survey is linked to yet more tuition fee rises


The University of Sussex has responded to its students boycotting the National Student Survey (NSS) by offering every final year survey respondent a £5 lunch voucher and £5 worth of print credit. In addition, final year students were also told in an email that “to encourage [them] to complete the survey”, the University would enter survey respondents into a high-value prize draw, which includes several graduation-related prizes each to the value of £250.

As it has done in previous years, University of Sussex has encouraged students to complete the NSS by offering food vouchers. This year, however, in the face of growing student adversity to the implications of the NSS, the University appears to have thrown in this ‘sweetener’ deal to entice students still on the fence about whether or not to boycott the survey.

Email sent to final year undergraduates

Email sent to final year undergraduates

In last term’s referenda, students voted for the Students’ Union to boycott the NSS. Sussex Students’ Union maintains that the survey will be used to justify increases in tuition fees, via the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).  Speaking to The Tab, Postgraduate Education officer Rose Taylor said: “This issue is bigger than just Sussex and BSMS and the NSS boycott is part of a national campaign against the TEF and rising fees.”

The TEF is a rating system sorting universities into Gold, Silver and Bronze institutions, based on how they score in a specific set of metrics – one of which being how well they perform on the National Student Survey. The rating a university is awarded determines how much it may raise its tuition fees. The National Union of Students (NUS) is vehemently against the TEF, claiming that “the government is creating a forced market of institutions charging higher different prices for degrees”. This could, ultimately, dramatically devalue degrees of graduates from institutions that do not meet the Gold or Silver ratings.

The NUS and the University and Colleges Union (UCU) have both called for a full boycott of the National Student Survey, starting from the 6th of January until the survey closes at the end of April. The UCU, a sister organisation of the NUS, represents the views of over 110,000 university staff in the UK. A statement from the UCU said: “Both unions believe that linking the TEF to an increase in fees will only lead to a worse deal for students. The introduction of the TEF in its proposed form will accelerate the marketisation of our sector, entrench inequality and damage the UK’s academic reputation.

“Just as NUS has given UCU strong support in its struggle for fair pay and better job security for staff, UCU will support NUS in its fight against the increase in tuition fees and its link to TEF.”

2017 is not the first year that Sussex students have pledged to boycott the NSS. In 2010, the Students’ Union urged final year students to boycott the survey to protest proposed cuts to jobs, services and courses at the University.

Notification on the Sussex Direct homepage

Notification on the Sussex Direct homepage

A spokesperson for the University of Sussex told us: “Every year we encourage final-year students to fill in the NSS, so that they can pass on their views about the experience of studying here to future generations of students.

“As we know that so many Sussex students take an active role in supporting local causes, for the first time we’re partnering with three charities too. As we do every year we’ve provided offers of help to students with printing credit and £5 food and drink vouchers, however this year, they are able to donate the voucher money to three charities: one for the homeless, one which helps refugees, and the other to help young BME people.

“Although we are disappointed the University of Sussex Students’ Union have taken this decision we respect their right to express their views. However they are only one of a very small number of unions across the UK taking this action. All current students should know that they or any future students of the University may be impacted, such as their employability, by any change in the rankings of Sussex.”

Boycott poster in this week's Badger

Boycott poster in this week’s Badger

The Students’ Union advises students that there are several other ways of giving feedback to their department or the University that do not involve completing the NSS. These include: giving advice to Student Reps, module feedback and end-of-term surveys, or speaking to a Full Time Elected Officer.