After just two years of campaigning, CUSU have been celebrating the success of its boycott on the NSS which has reduced the response rate of students at the university by a substantial degree. From a 68% fill-in rate in 2016, the number of Cambridge students completing the survey has this year plummeted to just 17.3%.
Since the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) last year, the NSS has been the centre of much controversy and the focus of campaigns led by CUSU and Cambridge Defend Education. The TEF ranks Higher Education Institutions according to the standard of their teaching, awarding them a gold, silver or bronze. These rankings, it is feared, may further the ‘marketisation’ of Higher Education and may be used to determine which institutions will be allowed to increase tuition fees in coming years.
In an article written yesterday, Martha Krish, CUSU Education Officer, stated that “This is student anger. Anger at a system that leaves some in tens of thousands of pounds in debt while others leave university debt-free”. Krish went on to argue that CUSU was committed to “maintaining student awareness around the marketisation of Higher Education, [and] refusing to be complicit in this marketization”.
A concern over the boycott on the NSS has been the potential loss of an opportunity to give constructive feedback to the University over the style and quality of its education. CUSU, however, has cast doubts over the ability of the NSS to act as an effective mechanism for student feedback and has highlighted that, with its controversial nature, the survey has even been opposed by UCU and the NUS for being “‘Bad for students, bad for staff [and] bad for education.” CUSU in fact runs the ‘Big Cambridge Survey’, its own annual survey, to allow students to highlight issues that are affecting them and to “identify areas that need improvement”.
“We have made TEF an issue that cannot be ignored. It is students who have brought this about, and it is students who must continue the fight”, contended Krish.
In response to the issues raised by the campaigns over the NSS and the ‘marketisation’ of Higher Education, the pro-vice-chancellor for education, Graham Vigro, has revealed that he will meet with the universities minister, Sam Gyimah, in the coming weeks to bring his attention to the concerns of the university’s student body and staff.