Following the student body’s decision not to boycott the National Student Survey (NSS), a number of campaigners and figures have voiced their response to the referendum result.
The referendum, conducted throughout week 4 of this term, was triggered amid concerns that positive NSS results, under the government’s plans for a “Teaching Excellence Framework” (TEF), would enable universities to charge higher tuition fees in line with inflation.
Chair of the Policy Review Group, James Humpish, presided over the drafting of the motion that triggered the referendum, and praised YUSU’s handling of it.
“I think it was a well-conducted referendum by YUSU,” Humpish commented. “I’m glad that we made quoracy so that the question is settled for now, although there’s always room to aim for higher participation in the future.”
The process saw 568 students voting against YUSU campaigning to boycott the survey, as opposed to 379 students voting in favour and 11 abstaining. Student turnout passed the 5 per cent mark – known as Quorum – necessary for a YUSU referendum to be binding, by 36 votes.
However, a number of pro-boycott campaigners remain committed to the cause. YUSU’s BAME Officer, Sophie Flinders, described the NSS boycott campaign as “nationwide and independent of YUSU policy”. She emphasised that, “although we lost the referendum, our aim – to get students not to fill out the NSS – remains.”
The secretary of York’s Socialist Society, Samantha Hurley, seconded the notion that the campaign would continue: “We’ll continue to campaign independently against the institutional oppression of women academics and people of colour; the raise in tuition fees; and TEF” Hurley stated. “We hope that York students still have time to research the implications of the NSS further before filling out the survey.”
Reactions from the anti-boycott campaign were predictably more jubilant. Department representative and candidate for Academic Officer, Jay Evedane, remarked: “Anyone who has worked closely with the University could see the boycott would harm students. Now reps can do our job and act in the best academic interests of all students without being compromised by adhering to a boycott.”
The University’s registrar and secretary, David Duncan, provided the following statement:
“We think on balance that the NSS is a useful way to obtain feedback from students about their academic experience; it also allows us to benchmark our performance against other universities. We take the NSS results very seriously at both departmental and institutional level and are constantly striving to make further improvements to all aspects of provision.”