Earlier in October NUS announced long-awaited plans for a boycott of the National Student Survey, a government-sponsored questionnaire taken by final-year undergraduates where they are asked to rate their university on various criteria.
The boycott is a tactic to fight the government’s current Higher Education reforms. These reforms have been criticised by groups such as the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts for not only proposing continually higher tuition fees, but also plans to relax rules on private providers, in an attempt to force competition in higher education.
This will inevitably lead to further marketisation of an already increasingly privatised sector, with bad results for workers and students.
However, the boycott plans have been threatened by a bureaucratic manoeuvre by thirty-eight student unions who have demanded the NUS ballots all student unions and asks them whether it should carry out an equality impact and risk assessment of the proposed boycott! The NUS has been forced to carry out this national ballot.
This attempt to overturn the vote of NUS conference is characteristic of timid student union leaderships across the country, people who believe that tame lobbying of the Tory government, rather than forcing its hand, will be the way to stop it in its tracks, contrary to all previous evidence. Given the seriousness of the proposed reforms, it is vitally necessary that serious action is taken.
The boycott of the NSS can be an incredibly effective tactic, given the reliance and support that the government and university managements put on it. If all goes well, the NSS will be launched in January and boycotted thenceforth. NCAFC activists are planning to publicise the boycott widely and now collecting pledges from final year undergraduates.