At NUS (National Union of Students) National Conference 2016, NUS passed the motion for its affiliated Students’ Unions to boycott, or sabotage the NSS. The reason for this is to protest against the use of the NSS score as part of the matrix that will be used in the rating of Universities in the Teaching Excellence Framework[i] (TEF). (NUS,2016)
Since national conference, there have been multiple SUs who have shared concerns on either the approach, or the affect it could have on students and their future prospects. They have called for a national ballot of doing a risk assessment. It is for these same reasons that we took it to our Student Council for a vote. We decided that we are supporting this national ballot for a risk assessment before we consider asking Greenwich students to boycott the NSS.
As your VP Education, I do not believe that boycotting the NSS is suitable for our students due to two main reasons:
- I strongly disagree with the advertisement that has been done by NUS as they imply that a boycott has certain potential to affect the HE reforms that are in motion. The facts as I understand them show something different. I feel that only half of the relevant information has been addressed.
NUS states “we are coordinating a national boycott of the NSS, making the data irrelevant and sending a strong message saying that students will not be complicit in damaging the reputation of our institutions, devaluing our degrees and raising fees.” (NUS, 2016)
The NSS scores are one of the three key metrics along a mixture of metrical evidence that is being used. What NUS does not mention is that these will be an average of the last three years (2015/16, 2014/15, 2013/14).
This means that a boycott could only affect a rough 16% of the total key metrics data.
Also, in order have an impact on that full 16% we can affect we have to be sure that all 3rd year students have to boycott or sabotage the NSS. Also, as for this years’ submission (tis is TEF year two), a boycott would not affect it. It could only affect TEF Year 3, which is next year, 2018. And would only impact 2019.
Also based on the ranking outcome institutions have the option to raise their fees. This is however up to each institution if they chose to do so or not. Therefore, it does not mean if you boycott the NSS there will not be a raise in tuition fees. As institutions could still score high enough to have a raking, in which they could decide to do so.
- The NSS results are an extremely useful and resourceful data for both the University as for us, the Students’ Union. The NSS creates an open platform for students to fill out at the end of their degree to share their invaluable feedback on their overall student experiences.
For many institutions, like Greenwich, the outcome of the NSS is the leading evidence, which allows us to lobby for change, adjustments and influence strategic plans. A lot of the changes that students have seen happening are because of NSS feedback. For example, the new sport pitches and more space and plugs in the Stockwell Street Library
I can imagine that the boycott may be the last resource for some Students’ Unions to leverage their University because of a lack in partnership. However, for us, this is not the case. We have been working very hard and come far to have a strong and respected partnership with the University of Greenwich. This reflects in the involvement that we have had in the TEF. From day one, we have had membership at the decision making senior management group. Although I have agreed to be part of this working group, I have always been open and honest about the fact that I do not believe in a raise of tuition fees because of the TEF. On the contrary, I think education should be free for everyone.
We have been involved throughout the entire process, and every single bit of student feedback has been listened to and included. Part of this was a consultation piece we did around TEF. I can assure you that all our contributions, as well as the great work we as an SU have done with research is embedded within the entire submission document.
Greenwich, as a London University, has an important place in the Higher Education landscape that otherwise only values reputation and name. Greenwich is an accessible institution, and we are proud to be an institution that makes is possible for everybody to study a degree in HE.
We as a Students’ Union are affiliated with the NUS, and in times like these, we should all stand together to support and defend Higher Education. However, as elected representatives, voted in by our very own student population, we always aim to react in the best interest of our students, to ensure we get the best deal for you. We will not just follow the crowd to be part of the popularity contest within NUS.
I would like to encourage everybody to complete the NSS, as it will be great resource of feedback for us and for future students. That allows us to continue to improve the student experience and your Students’ Union.
[i] The Teaching Excellence Framework is part of the Higher Education & Research bill that was proposed by the government. It is a framework that will be used by the government to monitor and asses the quality of teaching in England’s Universities, with a view of driving up the quality of teaching in Universities. The TEF rating system will sort universities into Gold, Silver, Bronze based on their outcome of the score.
The data that they will be assessed on will be done by a key set of metrics:
- NSS results (from ‘Teaching on my course’, ‘Assessment and feedback’, ‘Academic support)
- Non-continuation (students that leave the University during their degree and don’t graduate)
- The so called DHLE (the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education score on Employment, highly skilled Employment and further study)
Institutions that enter the TEF and will receive a Gold, Silver or Bronze ranking, could chose the raise their tuition fees above a £9,000 per academic year.
NUS believes that ‘The government is creating a forced market of institutions charging higher different prices for degrees. That will increase inequality both in terms of students entering HE and their graduate prospects’. (NUS,2016)