Referendum on NSS Boycott Announced

Michele Theil reports on the SU's announcement of a referendum regarding the NSS.

Royal Holloway’s Student’s Union has called for a referendum to vote on whether or not the RHSU should continue to boycott the National Student Survey (NSS). The boycott was passed in a referendum in March of this year, with 282 votes.

The original boycott was called for, in conjunction with the National Union of Students (NUS), in response to the NSS being used with the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to possibly allow universities to charge higher tuition fees. The NSS measures student satisfaction while the TEF measures quality of teaching and results of study. Universities can score Gold or Silver and be placed on the higher end of the spectrum or they could be scored with a Bronze, which is a lower rating. Thus, those that achieved Gold or Silver, under the Government’s initiative, would be allowed to charge higher tuition fees to its students due to the supposition that they offer a higher quality of university. Those that achieved a Bronze rating, or chose not to take part in this framework, as some universities do, would not be given the same option.

The original boycott was called for, in conjunction with the National Union of Students (NUS), in response to the NSS being used with the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to possibly allow universities to charge higher tuition fees.

In a statement posted on the RHSU website in February, SU President Natasha Barrett and Bob Fitzgerald from Royal Holloway’s University and College Union (RHUL-UCU) stated that they opposed “linking the grading of teaching quality to the right of institutions to increase fees”. They also wrote that “the TEF will create another unnecessary bureaucracy to control the activities of UK universities”.

In the time since, tuition fees are no longer being linked to TEF ratings due to the Higher Education and Research Act being passed earlier this year. In addition, tuition fees for Home/EU students are being frozen at £9250, which was announced by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on September 30.

The SU are now suggesting that we stop boycotting the NSS, as it no longer affects tuition fees within the TEF. The SU’s announcement of the forthcoming referendum states that “it could be argued…that filling in the NSS does hold some value in conveying the student voice to the college”.

Voting will take place on January 16 and results will be announced the following day.

If you’d like to get involved with the campaign teams for either side and contribute to the debate, email [email protected].