NSS Boycott Blog

Why should I boycott the NSS?

Dear BA3s,

A huge thank you to all of you who have not filled out the National Student Survey or have retracted their answers already.

For those of you who have yet to do so, the SU would like to better inform you as to why this is so important!


Q. Will fees actually rise?

A. Yes. Regardless of what TEF score we get (bronze, silver or gold) undergraduate fees will go up.


Q. If undergraduate fees are raising regardless, we might as well fill in the NSS.

A. Boycotting the NSS undermines the entire structure of TEF. Our boycott is pushing the government into changing their policy. Movements are already being made in parliament to scrap the link between TEF and fees. Boycotting the NSS helps make sure that this motion gets passed and that fees do not become based on inaccurate data and that excellent teaching does not become the preserve of the rich. 


Q. Education is already expensive and loans are in place to help students, why do further raises matter?

A. When the fee raise to £9000 hit in 2012, applications to universities dropped significantly. Loss of applicants in a small university specialising in a non-core subject, affect us worse than bigger universities as we cannot rely on other, more core or skills based courses to prop us up. Heythrop University, a small and specialist theology college in London, is now closing down due to lack of students and funding after the previous fee raises. Closure for small colleges is a definite risk, especially as we cannot offer all the extra incentives a bigger university can use to draw in applicants.


Q. My voice matters, if we don't have the NSS, how will I give feedback on my course?

A. The SU and Senior Management are working on a much better survey to gather student feedback. The questions in this new survey are tailored to the Courtauld and will allow students to give meaningful feedback that can be used to make meaningful change.


Q. We are a small university, our boycott won't make a difference.

A. Being such a small university, each student's feedback actually has a lot more sway than those in larger institutes.

Just a handful of bad NSS responses could lower our TEF rating significantly, branding our university as a bronze. This would lower the number of student applications, lose the Institute funding and STILL raise undergraduate fees.

On the other hand, a handful of really positive NSS responses could raise our TEF rating and allow our university to be given a gold or silver award, see our fees raise significantly and therefore drive out students from poorer and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Boycotting the NSS means we get no data, good or bad, for the government to assess us on. In 2019/20 when the biggest fee rise is set to kick in, the Courtauld will have no data to provide.


So, if you want to keep education at the Courtauld, and across the country, accessible to all, do not fill out the NSS. 


If you have already filled in the NSS, you can retract your data by emailing thestudentsurvey@ipsos.com before the 30th of April using the template provided in the previous email.


If you have any questions don't hesitate to get in contact.



NSS Boycott - retraction letter template

Dear Final Year Undergraduates,


As you may know, the Courtauld Students' Union is boycotting the National Student Survey.

The student body voted to boycott because the data from NSS will be used by the government to raise student fees way past the £9000 benchmark.


Your voices are being used to rate our university, raise fees and price poorer and disadvantaged students out of the best education.


For our boycott to be powerful we need everyone to not fill in the NSS.


If you have filled it in already - do not worry!

You can retract your data by simply copy and pasting this letter below to and sending it to thestudentsurvey@ipsos.com before the 30th of April.


To whomever it may concern,


My name is ________________ and I am a final year undergraduate at the Courtauld Institute of Art.

I would like to request that all records from my recently completed survey to be deleted as my University is boycotting and I do not want my answers to be used to raise fees.


Kind regards,



You may have also been receiving calls and emails from Ipsos MORI who run the NSS. 

Do not fill in the survey over the phone. 

Simply pick up and tell them you are boycotting the NSS and do not want your answers to raise fees. 

They are legally obliged to leave you alone after you have explicitly told them you do not want to be contacted.


If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.




Dear All,


The votes on the NSS Referendum have been counted and I am now able to announce that the Courtauld Students' Union has pledged to boycott the National Student Survey!


By pledging to boycott, the SU will actively encourage all our final year undergraduates to not fill out the NSS.


Filling out the NSS gives vital data to the government which allows them to raise fees for future students. Do not let your voice be used to raise fees.


If you have already filled out the survey, do not worry. Email thestudentsurvey@ipsos.com asking to withdraw your response before the 30th of April and your answers will be taken from the system.


The Students' Union understands that students still need to have an opportunity to give feedback on their Courtauld experience and so we will be exploring alternative, internal survey methods with Senior Management to ensure you can have your say.


If you wish to individually pledge your support to the boycott, sign up on the NUS website here and join the many other universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Kings and UCL, who have pledged to boycott as well.


Again if you have any questions or concerns over this or any other matter, do not hesitate to get in contact. 


All the best,


NSS Referendum

Dear All,


As mentioned in the Autumn Newsletter sent out before the end of last term, there will shortly be a student-wide referendum to decide the Union's stance on the Teaching Excellence Framework and whether or not we boycott the National Student Survey which has just gone live for final year undergraduates.


Below, the Students' Union has compiled some information for you to read before the referendum and help you make your decision as to whether the Union should promote a boycott of the NSS or not. Whilst we have tried to be as unbiased as possible, it is still a good idea to seek out information of your own. You are also welcome to come to the office for a chat if you are unsure.


For final year undergraduates, we suggest you refrain from filling out the survey until you have made a firm decision.


What is TEF and NSS?

TEF stands for Teaching Excellence Framework. The TEF is a government scheme proposed to measure the quality of teaching at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England. Stage one of the scheme was launched in 2016.

The TEF uses data collected from the NSS (National Student Survey), retention figures from HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) and statistics on the proportion of former students in employment and further study from DHLE (Destination of Leavers from Higher Education).

Participating institutions are also allowed to provide a written statement to support the data. Institutions will then be awarded a ‘gold’, ‘silver’ or ‘bronze’ rating by panels who assess the data and the written statement.

As standard, all participating institutes will be able to raise their fees in line with inflation to £9,250. Then, dependent on the rating an institution receives, they will be allowed to raise their fees again from academic year 2019/20. ‘Bronze’ institutions will be entitled to increase their fees by 50% of the inflationary increase. ‘Silver’ and ‘gold’ institutions will be able to increase their fees by 100% of the inflationary increase.

The Courtauld is currently participating in the TEF with fees already published as £9,250 for the academic year 2017/18.


The NSS is a survey taken by final year undergraduate students and is used to measure course satisfaction. Last year The Courtauld received an overall satisfaction score of 94% from the NSS results, 9 points higher than the national average of 85%.


What is the referendum for?

The Students’ Union is holding an all-student referendum on our position as a student body regarding the NSS boycott on the 20th of January.

The NUS (National Union of Students) is advocating for a boycott of the NSS to derail the TEF. If students do not fill in the NSS, then the data will become invalid and unable to be used in the calculation of future fee raises.

For NSS data to be valid, 50% of final year undergraduates must complete the survey. Last year only 65.3% of students completed the survey. For our boycott to be absolute we would only require ~9 fewer people to complete the survey.

Should the Union vote to boycott the NSS we would discourage all final year students from completing the survey.

Should the Union vote not to boycott the NSS we would encourage all final year students to complete the NSS as usual.


Should the boycott go ahead students will still be able choose either way as to whether they complete the NSS or not. The results of the referendum will merely state the position held by the Union as a body.


To boycott or not to boycott?

The anti-TEF position held by the NUS states that the NSS is an ineffective tool whose questions inadequately assess the student experience. The data from the NSS has historically not been linked with fees. As such the NUS feels it is wrong to use student feedback in order to raise fees. The NUS states that this creates a false market within Higher Education where higher fees are attributed to institutes that may not have the best teaching, only the best score, as well as pricing many students out of the best education.

By not filling out the survey, students will not be feeding into the data that will be used to calculate fees for 2019/20 which is when the most drastic raise is set to occur.


The pro-TEF position believes that giving students access to data on teaching as well as research allows them to make well-informed decisions about where to study, as the ‘bronze’, ‘silver’ and ‘gold’ awards will highlight institutions with the best quality teaching. The Courtauld consistently does well in the NSS survey, as such we would be able to compete with larger universities on a level playing-field and prove we are a world-class institute. The TEF has the potential to encourage a higher quality of teaching and greater accountability for institutions who do not provide good teaching as student feedback would be more closely scrutinised as student feedback through the NSS is highly valued in the grading process.   


When is the referendum?

The referendum will take place on Friday 20th January until Sunday 22nd January with a link to vote sent out to all students via email. Results of the referendum will be circulated on Monday 23rd January.

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