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This year the Students’ Union is asking you… 

Don’t fill in the National Student Survey (NSS)

200 senior staff members at UCL earn £30,000,000 between them while our lecturers are forced to strike, our mental health services are chronically underfunded and accommodation rents are ballooning.

Why is this happening?

Because the Government is creating a market in Higher Education – attempting to run universities like businesses, paying managers obscene amounts, whilst underfunding core support services and treating students like cash cows.

The Government’s latest round of attacks are designed to accelerate the creation of this system, and depend upon the National Student Survey (NSS) to operate. The vehicle for this is the ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ – a league table that ranks universities in large part by their scores in NSS. The goal of this is to encourage competition between universities, with plans over the next few years to link it to funding by applying differential fees either by course or university.

For the NSS data to be valid and usable, 50% of all final year undergraduates at UCL need to fill it in. Any less than this and the government has no data, messing up the system.

Last year, UCL was one of a dozen universities to successfully boycott the NSS; this led to the House of Lords temporarily severing the link between the TEF and fee rises, and delaying the wider implementation of the reforms.

However, the NSS data is averaged over several years, meaning that for the boycott to be ultimately effective it needs to continue. This is why, in line with policy democratically decided by Union Council, we are asking UCL students once again to not fill in the National Student Survey.

What is the NSS?

What can we do about it?

Why should I boycott the NSS?

I still want to give feedback on my course though..

I’ve done the survey but wish I hadn’t


What is the NSS?

The NSS is a survey of final year undergraduate students used to measure course satisfaction. It was never intended to measure teaching excellence, or for it to be linked to funding and fees. The government is manipulating student feedback to create a false market and justify fee rises.

What can we do about it?

The government has not listened to students and students’ unions who have consistently argued and lobbied against the flawed plans. The NSS will be the only place where students have any power and leverage left to force a rethink. We are encouraging students not to fill in the NSS along with other universities across the nation. If the overall response rate is less than 50% any data collected will be considered invalid and therefore ineligible for use as part of TEF. 

Why should I boycott the NSS?

The TEF will not only lead to increased fees, it could also damage the reputation of your university and in future devalue your degree. This is because it uses flawed arbitrary data that does not measure teaching excellence. Students are at our most powerful when we work together. By not filling in the NSS, you are not allowing your voice to be used to damage the reputation of your institution, devalue your degree and raise fees. The fewer students who fill in the NSS, the more the TEF is damaged. We are sending a strong message to the government: we will not be complicit with your agenda and our feedback won’t be used against us, as well as materially disrupting the implementation of these reforms.

What other ways can I give my feedback to ensure I have a say in improving UCL?

Surveys are not a substitute for democracy. The students’ union exists to tell UCL, democratically, what the university needs to be doing to act in our interests as students. So you can:

So don’t let your voice be used to ruin higher education. Don’t fill in the NSS.

Sign up here for updates and to be more involved in the campaign

How to withdraw your responses

If you’ve already completed the survey but are wishing you hadn’t don’t despair. Withdrawing your responses is really easy and it’ll be like it never happened. Just email to tell them that you’d like them to remove your responses from the data.


“My lecturer has asked to fill in the NSS and I’m worried about how to tell them I don’t want to fill it in, in case they get annoyed. What do I do?”

The NSS is anonymous, the only information the university has is the fill in rate from each department. Hence they cannot know whether or not you have completed it. If you want them to stop asking you, I’d recommend you to tell them you’ve already done it if you’re uncomfortable with telling them you wish to boycott the NSS.

“What’s the point of this boycott, the government aren’t going to change their minds?”

With students boycotting the NSS nationally, the government has already begun discussions on being less reliant on the NSS and metrics when looking at universities.

On 6 March 2017, the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Higher Education Bill currently moving through parliament, which would remove the link between the Teaching Excellence Framework and higher tuition fees. As NSS is linked to the TEF, and TEF to fees, this would remove the link between your NSS feedback and higher tuition fees for future students. However, the House of Commons may still remove this amendment, and we need to keep campaigning hard to keep this concession. That means, for now, we need to continue to boycott the NSS. It’s working, let’s keep it up.

“If we don’t fill in the NSS, won’t it be harder for our department to make improvements that benefit students?”

As mentioned above there are many other opportunities that will allow your student feedback to be taken into account. The NSS is only one of the mechanisms to do this and the university is aware that the students’ union is boycotting the NSS and therefore the lack of NSS responses will not be a surprise to the departments and they will be expected to still take into account all other feedback to make improvements.

“What happens if we don’t join the NSS Boycott?”

The NSS is the only leverage we have as students against the TEF and if we don’t try and show that students are not happy with the TEF, there is a risk it will become fully embedded in our Higher Education system. If the NSS boycott fails to have an impact then hey at least we can say we tried and then continue to promote the NSS like we usually do.