The NSS: Good Idea?

It’s always fascinating when the topic of the National Student Survey (NSS) comes up at any academic meet up. Most don’t have too many positive things to say – the student voice is valuable, but is this the best way to catch this kind of information? It seems that there’s rarely more than a 10% return rate, which means that it’s most likely to be students either very disappointed, or supported to a high grade. There’s also tales of universities ‘tutoring’ students to fill them in appropriately, and telling students that ‘it’s only your own degree you’ll damage with negative feedback’ (similar to advice I tend to give re social media to be fair!):

Universities are using the National Student Survey as a “bully’s charter” to intimidate staff, cut courses and force out maverick thinkers, academics have claimed.

Speaking in Manchester at the University and College Union’s annual congress, lecturers launched several scathing attacks on the annual student-satisfaction poll, saying it was deeply flawed and undermined teaching standards and staff morale.

Delegates backed a motion to replace the NSS with a better feedback system, while a second motion, approved unanimously, said the survey was unfair as it allowed students to “name and defame” staff anonymously.

Steve Issitt, UCU branch president at the University of Birmingham, told the conference on 8 June that some academics at his institution had been told that their contracts would not be renewed unless they received scores of at least 3.5 out of 5 in the survey.

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