Your Voice

Referendum on the NSS Boycott

The Result

Royal Holloway Students’ Union voted to support the National Student Survey, thus overturning the previous boycott.

So what happens now?

Well, quite simply, we’ll be advocating for and advertising you all to fill out the NSS. Rather than ignoring it and actively encouraging you to boycott, we’ll be taking the opposite stance. Until the 30th of April (which is when the survey closes) we’ll occasionally be promoting it, and the reasons you might want to fill it out. So why should you fill out the NSS?

  • Firstly, if you do it with the college, they might have free goodies for you. And who doesn’t love a free Freddo?
  • It’s also a great chance to provide feedback to your department. You’ll be able to directly feed in to how your course, department, and faculty operate, just by answering a few questions.
  • The more people who fill out the NSS, the more representative the results will be, and the more accurate and beneficial the changes will be.
  • The data gathered can be incredibly useful for the SU as a way of lobbying the college for change.

These are just some of the reasons you should fill in the NSS. For more information you can read the college’s page here.

Fill out the survey

Tuesday 16 January

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 took place on Tuesday 16 January via an online vote on the Students’ Union website.

The question being asked was:

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 185 students voting YES, 82 students voting NO, and 64 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.

Am I eligible to vote?

If you are a member of the Students’ Union (you’re automatically one unless you have opted out) then you are eligible. Undergrad, postgrad, first, second, third year, international student, mature student; anyone can cast their vote.

Why should I vote?

Yes - encourage the survey No - discourage the survey
Larger sample size = More representative feedback
The NSS is a way for the College to obtain student feedback from a large number of student about the quality of its provision. It is perhaps the College’s best chance at getting a maximum return of feedback from a particular cohort of students as it is conducted by an external market research company, IPSOS MORI, on behalf of the UK Higher Education funding bodies. The more students that fill it out, the more likely it is that the data the college uses accurately represents the student voice.
Contribution to the marketisation of education
The NSS is considered a symbol of the marketisation of education, restricting evidence of education quality to a data set. As one of the key metrics being used to form the Teaching Excellence Framework, the NSS continues to play a part in the increasing monetary value of academic disciplines. An addition result of this is the fact that arts subjects are quickly losing value.
The commitment of the College to the results
NSS feedback is analysed by the College’s Strategic Planning and Change Directorate in order to identify areas of high and low performance, and areas to address are discussed at a number of College committees such as the Quality Assurance and Standards Committee. Departmental action plans are created to address any areas of student dissatisfaction. The overall satisfaction mark can be seen by potential Royal Holloway applicants, so the College work hard to ensure that the scores and feedback are the best they can be.
The commitment of the College to the results
The NSS results is one of (if not the most) single biggest drivers of change throughout the college. It could be said that other channels student feedback and representation (such as course reps) do not currently carry the same weight as the NSS. A boycott may be a way to convey a student desire to see other methods of representation taken as seriously as the NSS.
The usefulness of the data for your Students' Union
Your Students’ Union can also see, analyse and use this data to identify areas of dissatisfaction amongst finalists in the student body. Your sabbatical officers can then use this data as evidence to back up their claims when lobbying for campus improvements for students.
Lack of true representation
The NSS is used as a central bank of data and reference point to drive most decisions at college level. However it only measures responses from final year undergraduate students and therefore gives us no reliable idea of the experiences of first and second year students. We also receive no data from postgraduate taught or postgraduate research students who form a huge demographic in our academic community.

News & Updates

NSS Referendum Result

Wed 17 Jan 2018

With the 24 hours of voting over, the referendum on the Students’ Union’s relationship with the National Student Survey has c...[read more]