The National Union of Students is to encourage a mass sabotage of next year’s National Student Survey in an effort to “wreck” the teaching excellence framework.
Under plans put forward in the government’s Green Paper on higher education, student satisfaction scores will be used alongside graduate employment statistics and other data to determine teaching quality in universities.
Those universities who score highly in the TEF would be allowed to increase undergraduate fees beyond £9,000 a year under the plans.
However, students' representatives at the NUS’ annual conference, held in Brighton from 19 to 21 April, voted to either sabotage or boycott the NSS unless planned reforms are ditched.
A motion, submitted by King’s College London Students' Union and written by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), to “mobilise students to sabotage or boycott the NSS” was passed by a comfortable majority on 19 April.
It stated that the action could “render the TEF unworkable, and seriously disrupt the government’s higher education reforms as a whole”.
“We know that if students, en masse, either refuse to fill in the surveys at all or sabotage it by giving artificially maximum or minimum scores, the results would become of little use and would wreck plans for the TEF,” said Anastazja Oppenheim, campaigns officer at the University of the Arts London’s student union and NCAFC national committee member.
This would have a “knock-on impact on other HE reforms…causing havoc with other procedures already in place to manage and marketise the sector”, she added.
The boycott is now a “very real possibility” and would be a “major disincentive for the government to go through with their agenda”.
Under the government’s plans, NSS scores are likely to be one of the main pillars of the TEF alongside graduate employment rates, as measured by the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education data, and non-continuation rates for students. The motion also called for students not to cooperate with the DLHE survey.
Hope Worsdale, education officer-elect at the University of Warwick, who spoke in favour of the motion, described the NSS as “a weapon to beat academic staff with and as an excuse to cut courses and close departments”.
“The current reforms would further destroy public education as we know it, so it is fantastic news that the NUS has chosen to boycott these surveys in order to defeat them,” she said.