Following the launch of the National Student Survey (NSS) on 9 January, finalists have been reminded of CUSU's provisional call on 15 December 2016 to boycott the NSS in the light of the University's decision to participate in the Teaching Excellence Framework: year 2 (TEF 2), a scheme which could result in increased tuition fees.
Amatey Doku, CUSU President, reiterated this message yesterday by issuing a statement encouraging finalists not to fill out the NSS for the moment.
"Our advice to finalists is to not fill out the survey until CUSU Council has decided exactly how it will continue to oppose the TEF."
The NSS asks 27 questions on students’ learning experience, as well as giving students the opportunity to make positive and negative comments. The subsequent level of student satisfaction, as well as graduate employment, would be used as part of TEF 2 to determine teaching excellence.
HE institutions awarded a Gold or Silver will be allowed to increase fees at the full rate of inflation for all three academic years of TEF 2 (2018-21). Institutions with a Bronze ranking will be able to increase fees at half of the inflation rate in the last two years of TEF 2 (2019-21).
To the consternation of CUSU Council, which agreed unanimously to oppose TEF 2 in October, the University confirmed in December that it will participate in TEF 2. According to CUSU’s official statement this is "a move which is likely to embolden this government's attempts to turn Higher Education into a market".
This condemnation is linked with reforms to the Higher Education and Research Bill, which were defeated by peers yesterday. Proposed amendments led by Labour peers demanded that universities be barred from seeking profit and that they remain autonomous bodies.
TEF 2 could be threatened by these amendments as the Bill made provisions for its implementation in terms of varying fee caps in line with teaching quality. Yet the impact on the future of TEF 2 of these amendments is not currently clear.
Consequently the NUS is coordinating a boycott of the NSS as it is likely to contribute to facilitating increases in fees at present. CUSU is advising that finalists await the outcome of its discussions before considering filling in the survey, and will offer further information shortly. It is possible that other means of opposing TEF 2 will be proposed.
CUSU’s concluding message to finalists hints at this: "Whether CUSU policy resolves to advocate a boycott, a sabotage or to pursue another course of action, our advice is to wait until the outcome of that discussion to make sure that our collective action to prevent the government turning Higher Education into a market is as effective as possible."