20 STUDENT UNIONS NATIONALLY VOTE TO BOYCOTT NSS – WHAT SHOULD UCU DO TO SUPPORT THEM?

I’d like to thank our students at the University of Liverpool who have voted overwhelmingly to boycott the NSS. This photograph is me with our Guild President Sean Turner at the November 19th demo to defend education. As President of the University of Liverpool UCU Branch I will continue to support our students all the way and we are meeting our members on Wednesday December 14th at 1pm to discuss how we can help our students to conduct this boycott successfully.

Why has the NUS nationally called for a boycott of the NSS?

The new HE Bill which is working its way through Parliament allows for tuition fees to be increased. The Teaching Evaluation Framework or TEF, is a rating system based on a set of criteria which ranks universities into Gold, Silver or Bronze institutions. The ranking criteria includes the scores each university achieves in the NSS.

The University of Liverpool is already advertising an expected fee increase for 2017-18 entry:

https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/finance/fees/

The introduction of the HE Bill will completely change the HE sector as we know it. This will open the doors to free marketisation. Social inequality will be entrenched for generations to come when working class students choose Bronze institutions with their lower fees while the children of the privileged elite will go for Gold. TEF will cause lecturers to abandon quality teaching due to management enforcing uniformity for TEF rankings. Most existing HEIs will fall to be awarded gold status leaving them vulnerable to financial crisis, bankruptcy and privatisation by being handed over to private providers. For our UCU members we will see an even more dramatic increase in casualisation and performance management, wages will become stratified and private providers will be unlikely to recognise Trade Unions.

This change will be drastic and it will be devastating and our students hold the power. Boycotting the NSS renders the TEF useless. We need to step up and support every student willing to engage in this boycott.

The University of Liverpool is the 20th student union branch to vote in favour of a boycott of the NSS. UCU branches in those 20 institutions need to co-ordinate our support and we should call on UCU nationally to make sure all 20 branches are aware of what their students are doing and know how they can support them.

What can UCU members do?

The national UCU strategy is to send strongly worded letters to our MPs. That’s fine in theory and should continue but when approximately 1% of our overall membership has engaged in this activity, it’s not nearly enough.  We can’t afford to sleepwalk into this level of detriment to our higher education system.

In the short term we can speak to our students to tell them we also support the boycott. Then we can ask our members to ask their final year undergrads to pledge to support the boycott via this NUS website:

https://www.nus.org.uk/nssboycott

We can publicly declare branch support for the boycott and we can ask our employers to stand with our students and UCU and boycott TEF entirely in defence of education as a greater good. We need UCU to nationally co-ordinate support of the NSS boycott and we need this quickly. Branches where students haven’t voted to support the boycott yet should be briefed on how they can get the message out to their students – as complete a boycott as possible is what we need to win this!

This is an outstanding demonstration of solidarity between students and staff, by working together we can kill this bill!

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