NSS is a tool for good 2

June 26, 2008

Lee Harvey's views on the National Student Survey overlook the very real benefits it has brought to prospective students and to the universities. Tomorrow's students face a bewildering array of information about the relative merits of institutions and courses. The NSS offers robust, thorough, relevant and independently collected feedback from those approaching their final-year exams - first-hand data that were unavailable to those making these important choices in years gone by.

The NSS is a powerful tool for improvement. A number of institutions have introduced changes as a direct result of the survey, many involving students working with academic staff and administrators to improve the teaching and learning experience for all.

It is widely supported and this spring, in the fourth year of the survey, more than 200,000 students responded. They care deeply about higher education and want their views to be known by those following in their footsteps and acted upon by their universities.

Attempts to manipulate the results are, of course, deplorable. It is important that the Higher Education Funding Council for England uses proportionate sanctions against any institution found to have done so, for example by suppressing publication of any results believed to be suspect.

Harvey is right to point out that the NSS was not intended as a "ranking" tool, and it should not be used as such. But it is continuing to deliver reliable and independent information to aid prospective students in making informed choices about their future.

Michael Arthur, Vice-chancellor, University of Leeds, Chair, NSS Steering Group.

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