Fighting Against Casualisation in Education supports the motion (Amendment 201B) going to a vote at the National Union of Students Conference this month, proposing that NUS should plan a mass sabotage or boycott of next year’s National Student Survey (NSS) and the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education Survey (DLHE), until the government drops its damaging higher education reforms. These reforms pose a serious threat to education, to students and to workers, and we welcome ideas and discussion about ways to gain the material leverage necessary to force the government to back down.
FACE has written previously about our opposition to the marketising, privatising reforms, and how they will lead to increased casualisation and the exploitation of workers. The NSS and DLHE are key features of this marketising agenda. They are both proposed as key measures within the so-called “Teaching Excellence Framework”, which has been designed to create a marketplace in which teaching staff and institutions must compete according to a series of metrics. This is a mechanism for the government to impose its neo-liberal agenda on education. In addition, the NSS – which casts students as consumers against staff as commercial service providers – is already used to discipline and bully us as a workforce, to justify managerial reorganisations in which jobs and areas of study are lost, and as one of the tools for managing and marketising higher education as a whole. Recent investigation even revealed a racist bias in NSS results against black and ethnic minority teachers. And other studies have shown that this type of satisfaction rating can reflect sexist biases against women teachers too.
Given all this and the severity of the threat posed by the higher education reforms, as a campaign representing workers in higher education, we support the proposed idea to organise mass disruption of these surveys in order to gain leverage over the government, helping to pressure them to withdraw the reforms.
As a more general point, FACE believes that students should have a genuinely democratic say over the delivery of teaching. The NSS does not do this. Instead it treats students as passive consumers, and the data collected from them is used by government and higher education managers for their own ends. Too often that means disciplining staff, individual departments, and entire institutions, through austerity measures, forced competition, and the imposition of underfunded targets. Looking forward, we want universities where students and staff work together in participatory and collegial democratic fora to govern our institutions, including the design and provision of teaching. We hope that student-worker cooperation on this action, and the defeat of the higher education reforms, can be the first steps towards a more democratic future for our universities.
For more information, the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts has written a more detailed explanation of the motion and how you can help the campaign to pass it and created a Facebook event to spread the word and keep up with the campaign. The motion itself can found in this document, listed under 201b.