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12th February 2018

Final year students asked to boycott NSS

It is the second year running that the SU have endorsed the boycott of the survey
Final year students asked to boycott NSS
Image: Students’ Union

The University of Manchester’s Students’ Union (SU) is discouraging final year University of Manchester students from completing the National Student Survey (NSS).

This is the second year in a row that the SU have endorsed the boycott, along with other UK universities’ students’ unions including Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick and University College London.

The NSS is sent to all undergraduate final year students to ask them about their experience at university. It is then used as part of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in order to rank teaching at universities as Bronze, Silver or Gold.

The TEF’s original aim was to link Gold and Silver status with raising tuition fees. Following strong student opposition from the NSS boycott, the House of Lords demanded that the link between the TEF and tuition fees should be severed. However, the link still exists and has simply been delayed until 2020 when tuition fees could be unfrozen.

Students’ Union Education Officer Emma Atkins told The Mancunion: “We would be failing as an SU if we didn’t make sure students had all the information about the NSS and how it is going to be used. People are free to choose whether to fill it in or not, but we want to make sure it is an informed choice.

“Personally I would not fill it in because I don’t believe student feedback should be used to rank universities Gold, Silver, and Bronze and then to decide their fee levels. I also don’t want don’t want universities to act like businesses and treat students like customers – and that is what the current government changes and the TEF is doing, and I would boycott the NSS as it is intrinsically linked to all of that.”

A university spokesperson said: “The National Student Survey is an important and useful tool that helps the University to collect feedback which we use to take positive action and improve services for all our students.”

The Students’ Union argues that despite the fact tuition fees are currently frozen, the TEF uses a three-year-average of NSS data to make ranking decisions, and therefore if you fill the NSS in this year your data could still be used in 2020 when fees could be unfrozen.

In addition to this, the SU feels that the NSS does not adequately measure teaching quality and that the boycott needs to continue in order to maintain pressure on the government as part of a broader campaign against the TEF and HIE reforms.

Third-year English Literature and American Studies student Olivia Wieliczko commented: “I think it’s great that we can do something to actively protest the rising of tuition fees that the NSS is associated with, and also show that Manchester’s reopening of the survey this year is financially driven rather than based on student demand. It’s something that I know me and my friends are actively engaged with, and it’s really important to us that tuition fees remain fair for everyone.”

An alternative survey has been created so that students can still give feedback to the University.

The Manchester Student Survey (MSS) is open to all students rather than just final year students and can be found on the SU website.

There are opportunities to win Pangaea tickets and food vouchers upon the completion of the MSS.

In the academic year 2016-2017, the survey gathered 2974 responses and the SU ran three Faculty workshops with over 100 student reps to delve into the data and come up with student-led recommendations and commendations for each School.

If students want more information about the NSS boycott, visit the SU website or get in touch with education officer Emma Atkins at [email protected].

Nicole Wootton-Cane

Nicole Wootton-Cane

Deputy Editor of The Mancunion

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