The National Student Survey (NSS) is a government-run survey open to all undergraduate finalists at UK universities. Cambridge students have successfully boycotted the NSS for four years, motivated by concerns about the survey's role in the marketisation of Higher Education and the desire to prioritise genuine, Cambridge-specific consultation with students by the University.

Following considerable student effort since 2017, the University has committed to meeting the demands of the NSS boycott, and therefore Cambridge SU will not be actively boycotting the 2022 NSS. Read our statement here. 

All undergraduate finalists will be contacted about filling in the survey. This page is intended to provide information to help you make an informed decision about whether to take part in the NSS, as well as explaining the purpose of the boycott. 
 

What are our concerns about the NSS?

The results of the NSS are used to inform league tables, and potentially a government-proposed framework for measuring Universities called the Teaching Excellence Framework which could be used to raise tuition fees at well-performing institutions and lower them at others, further entrenching inequality in Higher Education. The primacy of the NSS as a conduit for student opinion damages the quality of the education we receive by forcing universities to pour money into marketing and superficial or misguided changes that drive up "satisfaction" statistics without tackling real structural issues or collecting meaningful and actionable feedback from Cambridge students. 

There are also serious concerns about the quality of the data collected in the NSS, which has been shown to disadvantage women and BME academics as well as discourage innovative teaching, which means we do not believe NSS data should be uncritically used to inform changes to education, or measure ‘teaching excellence’. The university has many other ways of getting genuinely useful and insightful feedback from students and hearing their views, including through student representatives like Academic Reps, J/MCRs, SU Campaigns, and the SU Sabbatical Officers. 

Find out more about why we have boycotted the NSS in this video:


 

About the boycott

The University wants students to complete the NSS. To alleviate the student concerns and demonstrate commitment to engaging with student feedback, the University has met the demands of the 2022 NSS boycott.

  1. Following the results of the reading week referendum, University Council, the University’s governing body, and General Board will consider a paper on the introduction  of the reading week.

Historically, the university has scored badly on NSS questions related to receiving and acting on student feedback. As students, we want their University to take us and our views about our education seriously. The commitment for the reading week to be considered at the highest level in the University demonstrates a commitment to serious engagement with student-backed proposals. 

  1. The University will publicly oppose any government attempt to tie the Teaching Excellence Framework to tuition fees, including in the ongoing consultation on TEF.

Student feedback should never be used as an excuse to raise tuition fees or implement changes to the fee system that embed and exacerbate the inequalities in Higher Education. We are pleased that the University has chosen to make the most of its national platform to oppose any such move.

  1. The University has guaranteed that students will be productively involved in decision-making that affects us.

The University and Cambridge SU will co-author and a student consultation framework, and we will push for it to mandate comprehensive consultation with students on all issues that affect us. This will prioritise genuine student consultation and collaboration rather than uncritical use of NSS data.
 

If I complete the NSS, how will my data be used? 


Anonymised NSS results are only made public when they meet the 50% overall response rate threshold. Comments that respondents make are made available to the University but not published. If the 50% threshold is met, results are published by the Office for Students on their website. 

You can find the NSS privacy statement here

NSS results may be used to inform changes to education in your department or faculty, as well as changes to things like learning resources, facilities and student support. 
 


What do I do if I think the University is inappropriately influencing NSS responses? 

Universities must not influence students to complete the NSS in a way which does not reflect their true opinion of their own experiences. You can find information about reporting concerns about inappropriate influence here. 


If I choose not to complete the NSS, how do I opt-out?

In order to not complete the survey, all you need to do is ignore the email and phone call reminders to do so. If you want to stop receiving reminders, you can opt out. To do so click here, or go to thestudentsurvey.com, scroll right down the page, click "Opt-Out" in the bottom right corner, and follow the instructions to opt out.

Can I withdraw my response if I have already completed the NSS?

Yes! All you need to do is send a quick email to thestudentsurvey@ipsos.com including your name and University, and your response can’t be used.

How can I make my views known to the university without the NSS?

The University does take student feedback seriously, but the NSS is far from the only or the best way to express your views. 

We encourage you to complete end of term or end of year feedback forms, which are considered by Departments and Faculties in shaping course content and delivery. You can also talk directly to your subject rep who can pass on any concerns or ideas you have directly to the Faculty Board. 

Another positive way of expressing your views to the University is nominating someone in Cambridge SU's Student-Led Teaching Awards. Nominations for 2022 have now closed, but you will be able to nominate staff for the 2023 Awards in Michaelmas term. The SLTAs report, detailing what students consider excellent teaching and student support, is seen by some of the most senior Cambridge committees.

Finally, if you have a specific issue with your teaching or support which you would like to see addressed you can always contact your UG AEP Zaynab at zaynab.ahmed@cambridgesu.co.uk and we'll make sure to take it to our regular meetings with senior University staff, or refer you to the right person.

 

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