SU boycotts National Student Survey

The motion passed with a 75% majority, meeting the two thirds majority required to succeed.


Oxford SU has voted in favour of a boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS), owing to concerns that it would lead to higher tuition fees.

Oxford SU is now mandated to campaign against the survey, and encourage other student unions to join the boycott. The motion was motivated by fears that the NSS will inform part of the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which critics say open up possibility of raising tuition fees at high ranking universities.

The motion was proposed by former Oxford University Labour Club co-chair Tom Zagoria, of St Anne’s College. The motion passed with 75 per cent in favour, meeting the two-thirds majority required for the motion to pass.

Many who spoke in favour of the motion cited that the survey would lead to differential fees for different universities, with fears those from lower socio-economic backgrounds would be discouraged from applying to higher-ranking universities, instead applying to those with lower tuition fees.

Speaking to Cherwell after the motion passed, Tom Zagoria said: “I’m very happy with the result. Obviously with a 75 per cent majority in the final vote, it is clear that there is a significant majority of Oxford students represented.

“I think Oxford students in general are going to be very pleased that we are going to be keeping up this fight to stop the marketisation of our education system.”

Concerns were raised at the meeting about the effectiveness of the boycott, compared to last year. Catherine Canning, Oxford SU vice president for Access and Academic Affairs, said the link between the TEF and tuition fee rises had been suspended until 2019.

She also noted that the weighting put on the National Student Survey in determining TEF score for institutions had been reduced to 25 per cent.

She wanted to seek the support of the National Union of Students (NUS) to find alternative means of campaigning against this “marketisation of higher education”, in part to avoid diverting resources away from Oxford SU’s other activities.

Canning proposed an amendment to this effect and to campaign against this “marketisation of higher education”, but it was voted down with 68% in opposition.

At the end of the meeting, Oxford SU President Kate Cole, while raising concerns about the boycott, said that the SU would campaign “unequivocally” for the boycott.

A spokesperson for Canning told Cherwell: “The purpose of student council is to ensure that the SU officers work on the issues that are most important for students.

“The debate and vote in council clearly showed that boycotting NSS is very important for the student body, and for that reason, we will of course prioritise the boycott of NSS.

“The SU has limited resources to deliver the boycott, but we are currently working to put together a plan that will allow us to use our resources as effectively as possible to ensure that we can deliver a successful boycott of NSS with a minimum impact on the other projects we are working on.

“In the debate, several members of the student body offered their time and labour to support the boycott, and we welcome this help and hope to work together with these students.”

The survey is run by Ipsos Mori and requires responses from 50 per cent of finalists in order to have any effect.

A similar University-wide protest last year led to Oxford being only one of four universities to be left out of survey results. Only 31 per cent of Oxford students completed the NSS in 2017.

Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) has already boycotted the survey this year.

One of the later organisers of the campaign, Anastazja Oppenheim, told Cherwell last week: “The fight needs to continue and, building on the experiences of this past year, we can make the boycott in 2018 even more effective.”

Oxford University said in a statement: “In common with other UK universities, we write to our students every year to make them aware of the National Student Survey (NSS).

“This exercise is entirely unrelated to the Teaching Excellence Framework.

“The NSS allows students to tell us what they liked and didn’t like about their time at Oxford, giving us valuable feedback as we seek to improve the student experience.”


  1. were the administration to declare strong opposition on their own terms to the TEF in relation to its potentially undesirable exclusionary effects, then it wouldn’t oblige student protest involvement. as the administration notes, the TEF and NSS are not related, i.e., it therefore behooves the university to adjust the conditions whereby students are expected to provide the requisite NSS feedback. it might be easiest simply to cease ranking the universities.

  2. Glad to see the SU opposing the NSS (something I personally support but abstained on due to being unsure what my MCR thought), but what this article doesn’t tell you is that the SU passed a liberation policy (which does in my view have a lot of genuinely good ideas in all fairness) at the same meeting, which from memory had the policy that “We wont engage with law enforcement agencies except to protect and safeguard students” hidden right at the end.

    Given that the SU officers have to follow policy, the SU has likely caused itself massive legal problems further down the line when students are accused of sexual harrasment/sexual assualt/rape against non-students, and the SU officers have their hands tied by this awful policy.

    By the way, was told by Farheen at the meeting that this exists in some of the other policy books, and can’t help but feel this will at some point in the future be a massive mess- who’s to say the future SU officers will interpret this anything other than in the most literal way (not least if the future SU officers are the ones guilty of harrasment)?

    Oh, and should also note that it says they “oppose and would campaign against any future goverment policy with restricts the right of practical access to abortion” (not certain of exact wording here), a very out of touch and unrepresentative policy in view of the following article from which I shall quote

    “ComRes interviewed 2,008 British adults online between 12th and 14th May 2017. Data was weighted to be representative of all GB adults.
    · Only 1pc want the abortion time limit raised to birth
    · 70pc of women would like the current time limit for abortion to be lowered.
    · 59pc of women would like the abortion time limit lowered to 16 weeks or lower.
    · 65pc oppose UK taxpayer money being spent on abortions overseas.
    · 93pc of women want independent abortion counselling introduced.
    · 91pc of women want a sex-selective abortion ban.
    · 79pc of general population want a five-day consideration period before abortion.
    · 84pc of women want improved pregnancy support for women in crisis.
    · 76pc of population want introduction of doctors verifying women not coerced.
    · 70pc of parents want introduction of parental consent for girls 15 and under to get abortions.”

    That and our current abortion law (and also the liberation policy by extension) is also interphobic given that 64% of babies diagnosed with intersex conditions are aborted. Yet this passed without anyone else in council speaking out against it, and the chair missed my hand going up!


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