Survey questioned

December 19, 2003

Lee Harvey is correct in his critique of the pilot National Student Survey (Soapbox, THES , December 12). The survey will be expensive for institutions, use intrusive methods of surveying students and provide misleading information. What is its purpose in terms of institutional quality improvement? The exercise appears to have been designed to prove what the objectors said (that the sample would be too small to be meaningful and that the students who did answer would be the ones motivated by malice) when the idea was first mooted in public in 2001.

The NSS will clash with colleges' own student evaluation surveys. This will impair our internal improvement processes. Experience shows that to maximise response rates questionnaires are best distributed during the spring term. Questionnaire fatigue is a problem if surveys run concurrently.

The student survey is a pointless exercise aimed at generating league tables on the national scale that will scupper genuine attempts at quality improvement at local level.

Morag MacDonald, James Williams and Juliane Schwarz
Centre for Research into Quality
University of Central England

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