Why boycotting the NSS is our last chance to fight rising tuition fees

“Even Umbridge wouldn’t up the fees”

The National Student Survey is – as the title would suggest – an annual survey launched on the 9th of January this year, and is open until the 30th of April. A seemingly basic concept: you fill in the survey to provide information in regards to the quality of teaching and overall student satisfaction about your university.

Sussex’s Stance

One of the polls in the most recent Sussex SU referendum put forward the question “Should NUS conduct and publish a risk assessment and equality impact assessment before finalising the NSS boycott/sabotage action?”, with a majority of voters indicating their clear favour of opposition for the National Student Survey. 378 voted yes, which equated to 57% of voters.

Despite this clear favour in motion against the NSS – especially on behalf of the SU who campaigned in London in the Student Demo against tuition fee rises – Sussex has joined the TEF.


What does it mean?

Prior to being informed of the meaning behind these nifty acronyms, many students passively acknowledge the many “boycott the NSS” posters around campuses. What does this all mean? How will the National Student Survey impact both present and future students?  And just what the hell does “TEF OFF” mean?

The Conservative government has proposed to introduce the ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ – a scheme to selectively distribute funding for ‘better’ universities.

The Guardian has stated: “To help fix this, and to give applicants a better idea of what sort of teaching they can expect at university, the government will soon reveal its new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). It’s expected that the TEF will use statistics such as student satisfaction scores or the progress made by students from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as other existing data. Universities that pass the test will be allowed to raise their fees in line with inflation.”


How will the NSS affect me?

“That’s all very well, but what will this mean for me?”, you may ask. As stated on the Sussex SU website, “The TEF plans to used metrics such as graduate employment data and National Student Survey, NSS, results to determine which universities can charge even higher fees and which universities, if they fail to meet these metrics will be forced to close.”

In simple terms, the happier the students are found to be via the National Student Survey, the more fees the university can charge. The SU continues by saying:

“This means students that rate their institutions high in NSS scores will be helping to permit higher tuition fees for future students. The Students’ Union does not believe that these metrics are an accurate way to measure teaching excellence and therefore oppose TEF on these grounds.”

Students have actively expressed outrage towards the variation of fees that the new TEF scheme proposes. Many have expressed exasperation at the notion of privatising higher education – why should those who have earned the right to go to high ranking universities be forced to pay a greater fee than those who choose to go to a lower ranking university?

This puts into question what would happen to bursaries and scholarships – would they disappear if the university charges higher tuition fees? The Teaching Excellence Framework is representative of the elitist Tory government and their desire to seemingly privatise as many industries as possible.

If TEF is implemented, it may mean the difference between going to Sussex or going to Brighton.