January 4, 2017 at 06:39PM

The National Student Survey (NSS) goes out annually to final-year undergraduate students – in 2016, 431,000 students were invited to take part in it – providing feedback on their courses and the university as a whole. Seems harmless? Well, it isn’t.

The NSS represents big money in terms of university marketing – university student satisfaction scores are emblazoned over recruitment literature, and are used as a core component of institutional league tables.

Universities can spend thousands on student incentives to fill in the survey, not to mention staffing and associated costs. Students are warned that their job prospects could be affected if their university fails to score highly and slips down the league tables.

But from this year onwards, the role of the NSS takes a more insidious turn. The universities minister Jo Johnson announced last year that he would bring in measures to assess the quality of teaching in English universities, through the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework, or Tef.

For too long, he said, universities have focused on research, relegating teaching to a poor second cousin. Well, the NUS has always fought to make education better and its core purpose is to work with students’ unions and students to achieve that. The government is now finally interested in improving teaching quality. So what’s our problem?

None of the three measures being considered for the Tef – dropout rates, graduate destinations and salaries, and NSS scores – have anything to do with teaching quality. Yet despite warnings from academics, education specialists and student leaders, Johnson is pushing on to introduce the framework.

In reality, the Tef is a tool by which to raise tuition fees, taking a poorly thought through approximation of teaching quality that Johnson himself has admitted is a test pilot, and using it to dramatically reshape the university landscape across England, with unknown economic and social impacts.

Dependent on their Tef results, universities will receive a gold, silver and bronze rating, which in turn will be used as a marker of excellence for parents and students looking at where they might choose to study.

The Tef medals will decide the level of fee increases that universities can charge. By 2020, some institutions will be charging more than £12,000 a year in fees. We have no guarantee that in the future a gold rating won’t bring with it a complete uncapping of fees.

The government has left us with no choice. We cannot stand by and allow misinterpreted student feedback to be used as a sly way of raising tuition fees. That is why, following students voting for this at our national conference, the NUS is coordinating a national boycott of the NSS.

Don’t allow your feedback to be used against you, don’t fill in the NSS. Not for a free coffee, not for an Amazon voucher, not even for a crack at a free iPad.

With current response rates of over 80% in some institutions, and rising steadily every year, even small reductions in student participation will send a clear signal to the government – we will not be complicit in raising the fees of future generations.

By boycotting, students will use the NSS for its true purpose – to show that we are incredibly dissatisfied. Not necessarily with our courses or the university, but with the government and its attempts to dishonestly suggest it cares about the quality of our teaching, when really it’s just trying to raise fees again.

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from Education | The Guardian http://ift.tt/2hUaxd6