Announcing a Referendum on the NSS Boycott

Following significant changes to the relationship between tuition fees and the Teaching Excellence Framework, the Students’ Union has called for a referendum to determine whether the boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS), which passed as a resolution in a March 2017 referendum, should stand.

The referendum will take place on Tuesday 16 January via an online vote on the Students’ Union website. The question being asked is:

The Students’ Union should encourage students of Royal Holloway to complete the National Student Survey. Yes or no?

In accordance with the Union’s constitution, a referendum can be called by a simple majority of the sabbatical officer team, and after careful consideration of the facts, the officer team believes that the range of changes is substantial enough to alter the basis on which the original referendum was held.

What was the reason for the referendum?

At the Annual General Meeting 2017, a group of students proposed that the Students' Union boycott the NSS in-line with the NUS’ current policy. The motion was put to an online referendum between 10am on 8 March 2017 and 4pm on 10 March 2017. The motion carried, with 282 students voting YES, 48 students voting NO, and 14 students abstaining.

The referendum wording was as follows:

The Students’ Union should boycott the NSS and actively discourage students of Royal Holloway from completing the survey. Yes or no?

The rationale for the boycott at the time was that the NSS was one metric being utilised in the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework, which in its initial stages proposed that HE institutions which scored highly in the framework (i.e. by achieving a ‘silver’ or ‘gold’ rating) would be able to charge higher tuition fees than institutions scoring the lowest ‘bronze’ rating, or those not submitting to be part of the framework.

Therefore, by filling in the NSS, students risked actively facilitating, or at least being part of, the process of allowing the government to raise tuition fees.

According to Bye-Law F of the RHSU Constitution, such resolutions ‘have authority for a period of three years following their adoption, or until a subsequent resolution overrides it’.

So what’s changed since then?

Since the referendum, tuition fee costs have been decoupled from TEF ratings under the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. Furthermore, Theresa May announced a tuition fee freeze at £9250 on 30 September 2017, and the recently-announced Chancellor’s budget hints that this is budgeted to stick for two years.

As TEF ratings currently no longer directly affect tuition fee prices, it could be argued that the main motivation for boycotting the NSS no longer stands and that filling in the NSS does hold some value in conveying the student voice to the College. 

However, some students may still oppose the NSS as a survey, and choose to boycott it.

The referendum will allow students to have a say on what they want to do this year, now that the context has changed.

What's next?

We’re currently looking for individuals to join the Yes and No campaign teams. If you are interested in taking part please email and our staff team will put you in contact with the relevant leads.

On Monday 8 January we will launch a dedicated webpage that details the arguments being made by both sides of the referendum ahead of voting taking place on Tuesday 16 January. Results will be announced via the Union website on Wednesday 17 January.