The same unsavoury menu

August 22, 2013

We write as a group of concerned academics who find themselves unable to resolve a difficult academic dispute and are hoping to find guidance from the community of scholarship.

Overall student satisfaction, as measured by the annual National Student Survey, is an important part of the process by which universities are ranked. These rankings are in turn used by governments and government agencies when they develop policy and determine funding allocations. Students and their parents are encouraged to use these rankings as indicators of excellence when deciding where they would like to study.

A group of undergraduates at our university recently submitted a piece of fieldwork for a social science research module. They spoke to people who were leaving two restaurants in central London, Le Gavroche and McDonald’s Family Restaurant, and asked them to rate their overall satisfaction with the food they had just eaten. The diners from McDonald’s reported an overall satisfaction rating of 91 per cent, while those from Le Gavroche reported a rating of 83 per cent. The students therefore concluded that McDonald’s was the better restaurant, serving better food.

After being double-marked and externally moderated, the assignment failed because of its faulty methodology, but the students appealed on the grounds that it could not be at fault as it was the same as the one being used to rank universities in the NSS.

How is their case to be resolved?

Names and addresses supplied

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