NUS NEC Votes to Continue the NSS Boycott

NCAFC activists on NUS NEC submitted a motion to the last meeting, committing NUS to immediately release a statement reaffirming support for the NSS boycott, provide resources for unions to promote the boycott and actively defend every SU facing threats of funding cuts.

Full text of the motion:

Notes:

  • Over the past year, the government introduced a series of reforms to higher education.
  • At their heart is the Teaching Excellence Framework which ranks universities Bronze, Silver and Gold according to a set of metrics including the National Student Survey (NSS) and graduate earnings.
  • The HE reforms and TEF are already causing job cuts in multiple universities, for example in Manchester where over 100 redundancies have been announced, explicitly citing changes to HE policy as a reason. Previous moves towards marketisation since 2010 have also contributed towards recent job cuts.
  • In 2016, NUS National Conference passed a policy to boycott the NSS until the TEF is scrapped and the HE reforms are withdrawn.
  • In at least 12 institutions, NSS response rates dropped below 50% as a result of the boycott, making the results unusable. In many others, response rates have also fallen significantly.
  • The boycott was widely reported in the media and mentioned in parliamentary debates around the Higher Education and Research Act.
  • In 2017, Theresa May announced that tuition fees for the following academic year would not go up. However, there has been no guarantee that the freeze will continue for future years or that TEF and fees will be delinked.
  • The NSS itself has been discredited as a measure of teaching quality, including by the Royal Statistical Society. Its results have also been proven to reflect racial bias.
  • In August, over 70 student activists, SU officers and NUS committee members signed an open letter committing to running NSS boycott campaigns on their campuses and calling on NUS to lead the campaign nationally
  • Last year, some students unions did not participate in the boycott out of fear of a funding cut.

 

Believes:

  • TEF not only does not adequately measure teaching quality, it is a threat to higher education as we know it and needs to be resisted by any means available to us.
  • TEF means universities are chasing metrics and not meaningfully improving standards for students or staff.
  • Successful NSS boycott campaigns at multiple universities forced TEF and wider higher education policy onto the national agenda.
  • The NSS boycott contributed towards the government temporarily severing the link between TEF and tuition fees.
  • The government’s efforts to limit the effects of the boycott, by halving the weight of NSS as a metric and using data from previous years in institutions where response rates fall below 50%, are meant to discourage students from boycotting the survey. This shows that the leverage is effective and the student movement cannot afford to give up.
  • The government and university managers need NSS results not only to implement the TEF, but to manage the already-existing marketisation of the university system. By refusing to fill it out, we can therefore disrupt their business and gain leverage that helps students push them to concede to our campaign.
  • To keep up the pressure on the government, the NSS boycott needs to continue, as part of a wider campaign against TEF, the HE reforms and marketisation.
  • NUS still has a democratic mandate to lead on the boycott and the wider campaign against marketisation.
  • NSS turnout or results should never be tied to SU funding. Such blackmail from some universities is a despicable attack on union autonomy. It is a duty of NUS to defend any SU that receives threats of funding cuts because of participating in the national campaign.

 

Resolves:

  • To release a statement and contact every HE union in NUS reaffirming NUS’ support for the NSS boycott.
  • To provide resources for SUs, including flyers promoting the NSS boycott and a toolkit on running an effective boycott campaign.
  • To campaign for union funding not to be tied to NSS and to work with and support every SU that faces threats of funding cuts in relation to the NSS. Political blackmail through block grant cuts is a concern to all SUs, so we must respond with solidarity: we will support and help build action up to and including mobilising demonstrations on affected campuses if appropriate.

 

 

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