Students refused to take part in the National Student Survey 2017, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) reveals a sudden 2 percent decline in student satisfaction levels on the quality of education after a record 86 percent rate in the previous three years.
The Government has introduced the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) this year, to assess the teaching quality in UK undergraduate universities. The institutions may be classed as gold, silver or bronze, based on various metrics on “teaching, academic support, and progression to employment” and after submitting a 15-page document to experts and students.
This year, however, it was decided that the TEF will also use NSS data in its metrics. The higher the rating of the University by the students, the more the fees may rise above the current £9,000 cap from 2020. The National Union of Students thus led 25 unions to boycott the NSS and expressed their opposition to the linked TEF and fee increases. The Free Education movement has furthered the controversy nationwide.
A total of 300,000 final-year students from 530 universities took part in the annual NSS, 12,000 less than in 2016. The Independent has estimated that about “one third of students targeted, declined to respond”. Various Russell Group institutions, including Oxbridge, declined and did not fulfil the minimum number of 50 percent response rate to take part in “being used as tools” for the Government to spike the fees. Amatey Doku, NUS vice president said:
“The Government wanted to use today’s NSS results to allow universities which scored highly to raise fees from £9,000 to over £10,000 by 2020 as part of their draconian reforms to higher education. We will continue to call for the link between fees and surveys like the NSS [to be broken] and engaging students’ unions across the country to do the same.”
There has been a backlash against the boycott, described as “rash” and “poorly thought-out protest”. Particularly small courses with few students will not have any voice if they do not participate, and so opinions from larger courses will be considered, regardless if the teaching is of a higher quality.
The Government is committed that universities which offer higher education standards can charge more and ultimately TEF will continue. First-round TEF results to specific universities can be found here.