A misuse of data

January 9, 2004

Lee Harvey's polemic against the National Student Survey ("Scrap that student survey now", THES , December 12) is an excellent example of what most concerns the steering committee for the project - inaccurate use of data. A pilot cost cannot be extrapolated to the whole sector: the bulk of the pilot costs are development, experimentation, measurement and analysis, which do not scale. The costs are not necessarily proportional to the return rate. Accordingly, the £10 million-a-year estimate Harvey asserts is an overestimate, perhaps by a factor of ten. (Other arguments in the article are equally wild.) If the sector misuses statistics in the press in this way, how can it argue against others so doing?

Gillian L. Slater
Chair
National Student Survey Steering Group
and Vice-chancellor Bournemouth University

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