The point of NSS is points

August 29, 2013

It is hardly surprising that institutions use gaming strategies to try to bolster their scores on the National Student Survey (“Hold bad news about grades until after NSS”, 15 August). This has been clear from the start of the NSS.

It is good that Duna Sabri’s work is beginning to highlight what many of us have been aware of since the genesis of the survey: the situation seems to grow ever worse. The reason for this is that the NSS was always intended as a quality measurement tool and not an improvement tool; as a result, it forces institutions to focus on scores rather than driving them to explore genuine improvements to the student experience.

The NSS undoubtedly needs review. However, something more than a league table – whether of satisfaction or, as it is likely to be, “student engagement” – will be required to involve institutions in a genuine discourse on quality improvement.

James Williams
Associate editor, Quality in Higher Education
Faculty of Education, Law and Social Sciences
Birmingham City University

 

To those academic colleagues wrestling with the conundrum of students’ research comparing the satisfaction levels of customers at McDonald’s and Le Gavroche (Letters, 22 August), may I say that I think the original decision to fail the assessment on the grounds of faulty methodology was correct, regardless of the NSS analogy.

The students have naively missed the fact that one of the key drivers of satisfaction is expectation balanced against price paid. If both restaurants were charging the same amounts, as the better universities tend to do for their undergraduate education, then perhaps the satisfaction results would have been different and more in line with the NSS outcomes.

To take the McDonald’s analogy one step further, I would be keen to know how many of the academics who needed help with this conundrum will be having four stars against their name badges once REF results are known.

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