The National Student Survey

Originally published at and quoted by news outlets ranging from the BBC to Varsity and even Wikipedia. CUSU's NSS was successful, resulting in a University response rate well below the national average and the threshold for inclusion in the national results (despite the threshold being lowered, at the last minute, from 60% to 50%). This helped highlight the weaknesses in the NSS and put CUSU in a strong position to campaign for proper feedback within the University.

The National Student Survey is a government-sponsored survey of all university finalists in the country. It is being organised by IPSOS-MORI on behalf of HEFCE. Despite the good intentions of the survey, its implementation has been a disaster. It produces meaningless data which is gathered in an intrusive way. Therefore, CUSU is encouraging all its members to opt-out whenever they are contacted by IPSOS-MORI and to not take part in the Survey.

The National Student Survey's Problems:

Sample NSS Questions: Staff are good at explaining things; Staff have made the subject easy to understand etc.

The Questions:

The questions asked by the NSS remain over-simplistic to the point of meaninglessness. They are too simple and too broad to be useful for evaluating student experiences. As the questions are targeted at the entire country, they do not reflect the Cambridge Experience and provide no information on important parts of the Cambridge System (such as supervisions. Finally, the NSS only surveys finalists so it does not encourage students to weigh the expectations of their undergraduate career against the actuality of it so that the higher expectations of the University students in Cambridge have, compared to other institutions, are not born into account.

How It Is Carried Out

IPSOS-MORI, the company paid by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to carry out the survey has consistently refused to listen to concerns raised by students whilst continuing to publicise the NSS in an aggressive way. Students who have already opted–out have still been sent lea.ets encouraging them to participate and college JCRs have been sent T–shirts to wear in support. Only one publicity concession has been graciously made: IPSOS-MORI will now cease to phone students after speaking to them eight times without getting a response, whilst in the past they would call them up to twelve times.

Will Cambridge Suffer if Students Do Not Take Part?

CUSU has been strongly lobbied to take part in the survey by the University. However, the reasons for this lobbying are not clear and CUSU has not been presented with any one explicit way in which the University will suffer from the lack of participation. Indeed, despite its non-participation in 2006, Cambridge was rated as being in the top-ten for “Best Student Experience” by the Times Higher Education Supplement.

The Future: A Constructive Solution

CUSU also hopes to move forward constructively: it will also lobby the University to institute a Cambridge–specific survey, carried out in a way to ensure statistical reliability. This would be of great benefit to students, the colleges and the University and help issues such as welfare, educational–reform and access.