A Boycott of the NSS Will Not Stop Fees Rising

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As some of you may know, the National Student Survey (NSS) is open now, it gathers responses from final year students to attempt to ascertain the quality of their experience at University. This feedback is used in many ways; i.e. to rank the University on league tables, as data for School Reps to use to lobby their schools to improve academically and pastorally for students and for best practice to be shared across the University. However, the survey indeed has its flaws, and only shows a snapshot of the University experience given that it is only filled out by final year students exiting university. Even the concept of ‘satisfaction’ with a degree is questionable; we believe that an academically stretching and possibly at times uncomfortable experience at University is a better measure of learning experience for a student, as opposed to simply being satisfied.

Here is a video the Exec made explaining the changes to Higher Education in the current climate, while we were mobilising students for the National Demo in November last year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HvYHTplOZg&t=3s

Your Student Exec are opposed to any boycott of the NSS by Leeds students; though this does not mean that we have been opposed to any students engaging with us to suggest a boycott, we’ve simply had no interest until recently.  

We disagree with the National Union of Students (NUS) which is running a campaign to boycott. You can read more about the boycott here: https://www.nus.org.uk/Documents/Boycott%20the%20NSS%20Flyer_.pdf

We have been aware of this NUS campaign since coming into office but have taken the view that such a boycott would have a limited impact on the overall Teaching Excellence Framework process and NOT reverse the government’s decision to raise fees, rather it would negatively impact students’ relationship with the University and devalue your degrees.

Some people are supporting a boycott of the NSS in an attempt to undermine the results of the survey. If successful, the NSS from this year will not be used in the TEF metrics to go towards the particular Universities TEF score. However, there is no clear indication that a boycott of the NSS will actually affect the TEF and the rise in fees as it will use an average of NSS data from the past three years.

In opposing an NSS boycott, your Exec joins those who fervently believe that the survey has important benefits for their schools and for their universities. We do not want to devalue your degrees by giving their university lower rankings in the league tables and run the risk of worsening relations between students and the University. As a Union, we believe in Free Education – this was policy voted on by students. However, we do not believe that boycotting the NSS will achieve this aim.

With LUU’s block grant up for negotiation next term, we worry that LUU will lose a key bargaining tool with the University if we boycott the NSS. LUU currently has a 92% rating according to the NSS, meaning that we’re seen as a key driver of student recruitment and retention by the university. LUU’s services are currently at capacity, with staff over stretched. We need to increase our block grant or the future of many LUU services, or services from the Advice Centre to Fruity could face uncertainty.

We passionately disagree with the government’s proposed changes to Higher Education and have not kept this a secret. We have consulted with student reps extensively about a possible boycott here at Leeds but there was not much appetite at all for it. Instead we have been pursuing other ways to challenge the changes in Higher Education. We have remained extremely open to the discussion of a boycott with any student that feels this is the direction necessary, we even organised an open discussion with the Vice Chancellor for students to air their views on this issue. No students submitted policy to our forums or even spoke to us about their desire to boycott – hence there is currently no boycott.

We pursued other ways of challenging the changes such as a joint statement with the Vice Chancellor, which shows how important collaboration is, as the University is just as opposed to the changes as we are. The aim of this was to ensure that our message would be heard by the highest decision makers, since the VC has access to government ministers. No other students’ union has convinced their Vice Chancellor to come out so decidedly against the changes. https://www.luu.org.uk/press/releases/2016/12/12/Joint-UniversityLUU-Statement-on-the-Governments-Higher-Education-Reforms/

A student finally got in contact! So there is now an idea coming to our Better University Forum on March 9th at 5:30pm in Union Room 6, if you would like to support or oppose the idea please come along and make your voice heard.

Your Student Exec

[Image: Lisa Murgatroyd]

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