The NUS has announced that it will be organising a nationwide boycott of the National Student Survey, as advocated by NCAFC. We welcome this decision as an opportunity to broaden the campaign against the higher education reforms.
It’s now the task of activists to vigorously promote the boycott on their campuses. For the campaign to be effective, it will require mass participation – we need to put all our efforts into mobilising students.
The NSS will be launched in January. In the coming months, it is critical that activists make the case for the boycott, publicise the boycott widely, and collect pledges from final year undergraduates. By the time the NSS is launched, it should be common knowledge on your campus that there will be a boycott, it should be common sense to boycott it, and indeed as many third years as possible should already be signed up to do so.
It is also important that we are clear on the purpose and the politics of the boycott. Its purpose is to give our movement enough leverage to force the government to make concessions in negotiations. Its politics should be to oppose the higher education reforms as a whole. It is concerning that the VP HE’s announcement focuses so narrowly on fees. Opposing the HE reforms as a whole is what NUS National Conference voted for, and it is what is politically necessary. Fees are not the only issue. Moreover, they cannot be divorced or isolated from the wider changes taking place.
Government reforms since 2010 are turning UK higher education into a market. We are now at a crossroads. The latest round of HE reforms are the final piece of the puzzle: raising fees further and relaxing rules on private providers, in an attempt to force competition in higher education. But competition will drive up fees while driving down quality, and working conditions for academics will get worse.
For the past six years, our movement has opposed these changes. We have tried lobbying MPs and lobbying government; we’ve tried demonstrations and occupations. Now is the time to directly disrupt the market.
The NSS is a key mechanism: it informs league tables, is used to monitor staff, and will be a key metric in the government’s proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). So even before it is used in the TEF, it relies on students participating, which gives us power. If we choose not to participate – if we choose to boycott – we exercise our power. It’s critical that we use that power now.