Academic staff must stand in solidarity with each other to make the NSS boycott effective

The UCU and the National Union of Students both support the student boycott of this year’s National Student Survey (NSS). This boycott has been called in opposition to proposals in the Higher Education Bill to use data from the NSS to inform scores in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which in turn will be used to raise tuition fees.

FACE wholeheartedly supports this student-led boycott. It is the only effective strategy left to block the flagship policy of the Higher Education Bill and the serious threat it poses to our working conditions. There is, however, a great deal at stake here.

To win, the boycott cannot be limited to a few departments or institutions, but must be as solid and as wide as possible.

Not only that, but low participation rates for the NSS have in the past been used by university management to discipline departments and justify cuts to their internal budgets. If the boycott is not implemented consistently and effectively across departments and all higher education institutions, then there is a risk that small departments with exceptionally radical student bodies will be the only ones affected and management will use these low participation rates to punish them. We have a collective responsibility to each other to ensure that all members in our respective departments are fully aware of the boycott and know how best to support it.

What you can do:

  • Display these posters and flyers in your department: https://www.ucu.org.uk/boycott-the-nss.
  • Inform all your final year students about the boycott, and let them know that is supported by both the lecturers’ and the students’ union. (The official advice from the UCU is that although members are not allowed to impede students who wish to participate in the NSS, they can let students know about the UCU’s national and local position in support of the boycott. Moreover, if you are told by your Head of Department or line manager to refrain from informing students about the boycott, you should ask for the person concerned to put the instruction in writing and then immediately seek the advice of your UCU branch, obeying the instruction until further notice is given.)
  • Invite your local student union to speak about the boycott for five minutes at the beginning of all final year lectures and meetings.
  • Call a meeting of all UCU members in your department to ensure that everybody is informed about the NSS boycott and feels supported to follow union policy.
  • Ask your UCU branch president to write all Heads of Departments and your Vice Chancellor informing them of UCU support for the NSS boycott and requesting that they respect members’ right to follow official union policy. They should demand reassurance that no disciplinary action will be taken against members for doing so.. They should also demand that no undue pressure is placed on students to prevent them from participating in the boycott.