Posted on Wed 18 Jan 2017 at 13:24 by Luke Pilot
Well, here we are again - another year, another campaign against proposed Higher Education reforms.
I understand students’ collective fatigue on these issues: not only is this process completely exhausting, it is now all we have ever known. In what is becoming an increasingly precarious environment for young people, the only certainty we are faced with is that a University education guarantees access to a lifetime of potential debt. And that situation is about to get much, much worse.
The Government’s Higher Education Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords, proposes the establishment of a contentious ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ (TEF), which is being sold as a new way to assess the quality of teaching at all universities in the UK. The TEF is based on several factors: students’ post-university employment, course completion rates and feedback from the National Student Survey (NSS). Scores from these sources will be collated to award each institution a rank in the new TEF league table and either ‘bronze’, ‘silver’ or ‘gold’ status.
But don’t be fooled: universities are not competing in some sort of Education Olympics, nor will these options accurately reflect students’ options. Universities are scrabbling to get either a gold or silver award because it will allow them to do the one thing students do not want: to raise tuition fees further still.
Student drop-out rates do not in any way measure teaching excellence. Students’ employment choices after university (or, in too many instances, lack thereof) do not reflect teaching excellence. And the NSS does not measure teaching quality - it assesses student satisfaction. What the Government is doing is taking an already-flawed survey and applying its results to an area it was never designed to assess. These results will then be used to raise tuition fees - potentially even mid-course for current students, as is sadly already the norm for international students.
The message, then, is simple: your participation in the NSS will be used to increase tuition fees for current and future generations of students. Final-Years may ask how this affects them, given that they will be graduating this year. However, your younger siblings, friends in other year-groups and own families will be directly affected by these measures. As a future parent or member of society, make no mistake: you will be picking up the tab further along the line.
However, by joining thousands of finalists across the country and refusing to fill out the NSS, you'll be withholding data from the Government, thus invalidating the findings of the research and disrupting these proposals.
Students are down to our last available options. We've met with MPs. We've been through every possible democratic channel here at Warwick. We've called extraordinary meetings of the highest University committees, only to find that we don't have an ally. We've marched on Parliament. Students have occupied campus buildings. None of these measures have had the slightest impact on the government’s desire to turn Higher Education from a public and private good into an extension of the Free Market system. So now we have to resort to the extreme measure of asking students to do something we've never done before: when asked to fill out the NSS, we want you to do nothing. (Hey, at the very least, you’ll be able to spend that time doing something more enjoyable for a change!)
We have been lied to time and again by successive governments who have pledged not to raise tuition fees, only to do the exact opposite. This time, they even have the gall to ask students to be complicit in the act. But the highest price tag does not equate to “excellence”. Don't be a part of the problem, be part of the solution.
Boycott the NSS today - it takes just one minute, and could make all the difference in the long run: www.warwicksu.com/nssboycott