We discover from the National Student Survey that the University of Brighton is the best place in the UK to do philosophy or philosophy and history. As tutors in the humanities here, we should be delighted. We are not.
We know that we have interesting and challenging courses for students, that our small-group teaching methods work well, that our non-modular courses preserve a developmentalism often lost in modular programmes, and that we know students by name - but that is not what the NSS recognises. It is an outsourced non-academic exercise, the outcomes of which reflect annual student response rates on "satisfaction" and institutional incentives and inducements to respond. It is a statistically risible exercise in neoliberal populism.
Appropriate and public measures of academic coherence and the educational worth of the student experience are certainly required. The NSS does not provide them.
The only response to the NSS for self-respecting academics and students is a coordinated boycott. Are the University and College Union and the National Union of Students listening?
Tom Hickey, Mark Devenney, Lucy Noakes et al, University of Brighton
See www.timeshighereducation.co.uk for the full list of signatories.