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Why I’m fighting the NSS boycott

Image credit: 'UoY: Vote NO to the NSS Boycott'
Image credit: 'UoY: Vote NO to the NSS Boycott'
Image credit: ‘UoY: Vote NO to the NSS Boycott’

I have been an academic representative every single term consecutively since September 2007, when I started secondary school. I live for working between staff and students to make a change and I’ve been doing it for nearly half of my life now. Getting up and reading through programme maps and papers for the Board of Studies meeting is what makes me happy and I like to think that I do a good job of genuinely making things better for my fellow students here at York.Without reliable data from the National Student Survey, I know that that job would be a lot harder.

When I started my studies at the University of York, the department rep before me handed over a copy of my department’s NSS scores from 2013 and 2014. We had jumped twenty points for ‘overall satisfaction’, something of which he was rightly very proud. I remember him stressing the importance of the survey then and there. Being a new Course Representative, I didn’t really understand the significance, but I kept the printout and pinned it to my noticeboard where it stayed all year until after I had taken up the position of Department Representative.

Through my first year, I started to realise just how important all the numbers on that little strip of paper are. It allows us to identify areas we need to improve across all of our degree courses, rather than just specific concerns within individual modules. Then, once those areas have been identified, we would use them to target problem areas and make the courses better.

When the staff in my department set targets, it’s based on students’ responses to the  NSS; when the staff reshape modules, it’s because of the NSS; and when our staff need to see if the improvements have worked, they look to the NSS.

Without working with academics as a representative for students, I don’t think that it’s possible to appreciate just how integral the NSS is to making improvements and how much it matters to our lecturers and administration staff.

Forget the fact that losing NSS data runs a high risk of devaluing York’s status as an institution. Forget that the TEF’s chief has already said they’ll continue their plans with limited NSS data, rendering the boycott useless. Encouraging students to boycott the survey will be bad for our departments.

I was appointed to represent the students of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media (TFTV) by working with the staff to make the department better. Boycotting the NSS does not have their best interests at heart.

So, it is with some trepidation I announce that, if YUSU moves to boycott the NSS, I will resign from my position. It would ruin my perfect record of always being an academic rep and it would mean giving up a large part of my life. But there is nothing that could convince me that the harm losing the NSS data this year would bring could ever be worth it.

Elizabeth Jay Edevane is campaigning on behalf of ‘UoY: Vote No to the NSS Boycott’.