Goldsmiths UCU/Goldsmiths Students’ Union statement on the NSS Boycott

Goldsmiths UCU and Goldsmiths Students’ Union pledge our support for the boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS) launched by the National Union of Students. We believe that the NSS is a methodologically flawed instrument for measuring teaching quality and that it provides an incomplete picture of the student experience. Furthermore, evidence shows that quantitative student evaluations like the NSS encourage gender discrimination in Higher Education and exhibit bias against BME staff.

The NSS is a key metric for the government’s proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) which will allow universities to increase fees depending on their TEF scores and whether they are rated Gold, Silver or Bronze. We believe that this will further entrench market forces inside Higher Education and distort the sector by privileging subjects that are focused, above all, on employability and popularity rather than those that highlight experimentation, creativity and critical thought. NSS scores will now be used in a framework that will devalue our degrees, especially the arts, humanities and social sciences programmes that we specialize in here at Goldsmiths.

Goldsmiths UCU and Students’ Union are committed both to protecting the quality of our education and to addressing issues that may be undermining this experience. We do not believe that the NSS – especially when it is linked to funding and fees – should have a role to play in this although we are more than happy to develop and participate in forms of evaluation that allow students to reflect on teaching quality and the wider academic experience in meaningful ways.

If even a handful of institutions refuse to participate in the NSS, it will damage the ability of the government to claim that the TEF is a fair and representative way of evaluating teaching quality. A boycott will protect the reputation of a Goldsmiths degree and make it harder to justify higher tuition fees and increased debt.

As part of the boycott, we are asking:

  • Third year undergraduate students NOT to answer any of the 27 questions of this year’s NSS that runs in the Spring term 2017.
  • All students who wish to support the boycott to help publicise the action – for example, taking part in lecture shout-outs – and to contact the Students’ Union as soon as possible.
  • UCU members to share materials in support of the NSS boycott, to upload a slide advertising the boycott to Powerpoint presentations in lectures and to allow students, where possible, to discuss the reasons for the boycott.
  • UCU members NOT to undertake any additional voluntary duties in relation to the NSS. Operationalising the NSS is not, except in a handful of cases, a contractual duty.

Our degrees are too precious to be distorted by the government’s determination to commercialise Higher Education and to see tuition fees rise ever higher. Boycotting the NSS is a hugely important first step to winning back control of our education.


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