The National Student Survey is in full swing. The survey of final-year students measures levels of satisfaction with courses and the university. Students on NHS funded courses are also asked about their placements. Students can give their anonymized responses until April 30 2019.

The 27-question survey has been completed by 4 million students from 419 institutions so far, according to the NSS website. 7/10 students completed the survey in 2018 and Ipsos MORI, who are administering the survey on behalf of universities, says this feedback will help to improve university courses and gives students “a powerful collective voice”.

However, the survey has been the source of controversy in the past with Oxford Students’ Union voting to boycott it earlier this year, 95% of voters supported the motion. This, they say, is because of their belief that NSS scores will be used by universities to raise fees on courses deemed to be of high-quality.

There had also been concern about links between the NSS and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The TEF is an exercise introduced by the government. It assesses the quality of teaching at universities and their effort towards graduate employment and further study. It is believed that results help prospective students choose the right institution for them. English universities with a TEF award are permitted to charge the higher-rate tuition fee of £9,250 a year.

Sussex University joined the TEF in 2016 with opposition from the National Union of Students (NUS), University and College Union (UCU) and Sussex Students’ Union (USSU). Some argue that internal university surveys are a better avenue for feedback, saying the NSS is used as a status symbol for universities to aid them in league tables.

In 2016 Sussex students voted by 62% (536 votes) to 38% (326 votes), with 102 abstentions, to boycott the survey in a Union referendum. Debate at Sussex about whether or not to complete the survey dates back to at least 2010. 

However, some departments still choose to fill in the survey regardless of USSU’ s position. During the NSS boycott last year, the Sussex Engineering Department and engineering students made clear they would still complete the survey to ensure continued funding, graduate prospects, and departmental reputation.

In 2017 USSU hailed its NSS boycott a success, pointing out that the completion rate of 33% in February 2017 was significantly lower than the February completion rate of 48% the previous year.

As with previous years, The University is offering a variety of incentives for students to complete the survey including; free coffee at the ‘NSS Café’ on campus, a £5 printing or food voucher, and an entry into a £750 prize draw for those who complete the survey before February 28.

Aside from university emails about the survey, Ipsos MORI have also been calling and emailing students until they complete the NSS. This has annoyed some students due to the high frequency of correspondence from the external company. One student said “I’m boycotting it cause I don’t agree with it and what it is used for in government calculations , I also think that they’re just bribing students with the £5 vouchers and stuff, so I understand why people are doing the NSS”.


Image Credit: Jethro Chow

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