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University pleads with students to fill in national survey despite union boycott bid

By Sarah Sinclair Feb 2, 2017
Daisy Bow Du Toit speaking at the AGM. Picture Credit: Holly Duffield, UKS

Kingston University has appealed to students to fill out the National Student Survey (NSS) on how they found their course at university, despite the threat of a boycott from the Union of Kingston Students (UKS).

Officers from UKS advised students to boycott the NSS at the Annual General Meeting (AGM).

However, the university asked students to all out the survey because failure to do so could result in Kingston descending in the league tables.

A Kingston University spokesperson said: “The feedback we receive through the National Student Survey plays a significant role in the decisions made to ensure our students get the most out of their time at Kingston University.”

Students heard at the AGM that UKS was going to examine the advantages and disadvantages of boycotting and will hold an awareness campaign to inform students of the benefits and risks.

“As a union we could join in on a wider national campaign which is asking to boycott the NSS,” the Penrhyn Road Officer, Daisy Bow Du Toit, said. This was set in motion at the AGM last Wednesday, as part of a motion titled ‘First there was Brexit, then there was Trump and now there is the TEF. Save our students before it is too late!’

Last year, Kingston University dropped 20 places to 147th in the NSS tables, with an overall satisfaction rate of 80%.

Daisy has previously described the NSS as a “terrible” way to collect student feedback, and asked at the meeting whether the students of KU wanted to “just lie down and take it”.

“It is something that is looming, but none of us know about it. Teachers don’t like it, universities don’t like it, and if students knew, they wouldn’t like it.”

A Kingston University spokesperson said: “The feedback we receive through the National Student Survey plays a significant role in underpinning the decisions we make to ensure our students get the very most out of their time here at Kingston University.

“We would encourage all eligible students to take the time to fill out the survey, which only takes five to 10 minutes to complete.”

The motion states the UKS will “liaise closely” with campus unions such as UCU and UNISON to mobilise against the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

The TEF is a scheme the government introduced this month, which rates UK universities as Gold, Silver and Bronze institutions based on their NSS scores, how many students drop out of their courses, and what students do after they graduate. 

The £9,000 cap on how much your tuition fees are would be removed, and then universities could charge a premium based on what rank they are,” said the motion’s proposer, Laila Yousofi. “That would be bad for all parties involved.”

The wider national campaign is being led by the National Union of Students (NUS), which states on its website that by introducing the TEF, the government “is creating a forced market of institutions charging higher different prices for degrees.”

It is unknown what ranking Kingston University will receive but they are advertising their 2017/18 tuition fees for home students as 9,250 but they “may increase in line with inflation each year subject to the results of the TEF.”

This is compared to the 9,000 a year home and EU students currently pay.

The NUS first announced the boycott in November last year, and its report claimed the data it used to measure teaching excellence was “flawed” and “arbitrary”.

[The Teaching Excellence Framework] will serve as an incentive for universities to minimise their recruitment of students from backgrounds who suffer discrimination in the job market as well as deprioritise departments which are not currently linked to rapid quality employment,” said NUS president Malia Bouattia.

It will further grow the gap on opportunities for black and working-class students, whilst deepening the funding crisis within humanities and social sciences.” 

Their website also stated that it could affect the standing of your university and devalue your degree.

One of the AGM motion’s seconders, Richard Donnelly, said: “The national boycott campaign against the NSS is aimed at breaking the momentum of the Tory government’s attack on students.” 

He added their success “means sending a signal of defiance to the government’s assault on education.”

UKS said: “The official Union stance on the NSS is to hold an awareness campaign on what the TEF is, how the NSS will be used and what risks there will be for students participating in the boycott, led by all Officers, so that students can decide for themselves.”

By Sarah Sinclair

Sarah is currently studying her bachelors of Journalism with Politics at Kingston University, where she is also the journalism Society's president. She is Deputy Marketing Manager at the pub she pulls pints in, while also working a few other social media projects. She also completed an internship at The Debrief, Bauer Media and PinkNews. Her interest in political journalism spiked while she studied her A-level on government and politics and she also been involved with student politics via the NUS women's campaign.

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