The National Student Survey (NSS) is an annual survey of final year undergraduate students. USSU is asking final year undergraduates not to take part in the NSS in protest at university management cutting 115 staff across the campus.
University management have so far been unwilling to enter into meaningful negotiations with either the Students’ Union or staff unions over proposals to axe 115 teaching and support staff. The lecturers’ union is set to take strike action this Thursday. As students one way we can register our dissatisfaction is by refusing to participate in the NSS.
The NSS is a very poor substitute for genuine student engagement in how our university is run. University managers fixate on the survey results – sometimes resorting to dubious tactics to improve their scores – and this increasingly overtakes common sense about what makes a good university experience. For example, at Leeds University, NSS results have been used to justify proposals to cut 700 staff: one analysis claimed that “there is no clear link between student-staff ratios and student satisfaction as measured by the National Student Survey.”
Indeed, the NSS is a widely discredited barometer of student opinion. Lee Harvey, an internationally respected expert on higher education policy, branded the NSS “shallow, costly, widely manipulated and methodologically worthless.”
This campaign is designed to send the message that we value the staff who make our university experience what it is. By not participating in the survey rather than giving bad scores, we will make clear that we hold university management responsible for damaging our education, not staff on the ground who are working hard to do their jobs under increasingly difficult circumstances. As University management will be well aware, if less than 50% of finalists complete the survey, the results will not be published.
Of course, the survey – despite its flaws – has an impact on outside perceptions of our university. But the real damage to the university’s reputation is being caused by the management’s proposals to axe 115 staff. Management will use any opportunity to smokescreen the impact of these cuts, including NSS results. That would be a disservice to the staff who stand to be lost, and isn’t fair on future students.
We hope that the threat of losing their NSS survey scores will bring university management to the negotiating table and avoid cuts which would permanently damage the quality of teaching and research at Sussex.
Please register on our website so we know how many of you are taking part in this initiative. This also gives us the option of collectively deciding to participate in the survey in the right circumstances. Even if you choose not to participate right now, the NSS remains open until the end of April and we hope that progress will be made in negotiations with University management by then.
You can register at: http://www.ussu.info/nss