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Student Survey Problems Run Deeper

May 13 2008 19:43
Ashley Brown
The Higher Education Funding Council for England has defended the National Student Survey, despite evidence of widespread cheating revealed by a BBC article.
The BBC article attracted a flurry of emails

Looking for the recording from Kingston? See 'National Student Survey Rigged'.

At the start of May Live! reported on Kingston University staff urging students to fake results of the National Student Survey, but a follow-up article by the BBC has revealed the problems are much deeper. Indeed, hundreds of emails to the BBC website have revealed that the advice given by Kingston staff was correct - everyone is faking the results.

We had at least three 'special' lectures on it, and a school wide announcement and e-mails and it was announced in induction events
Brian from Newcastle, to the BBC News website

Within a few hours of breaking the story nationally, the BBC posted a follow-up containing quotes from a number of emails which reveal a large number of universities are encouraging their students to lie in the survey. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) has continued to defend the NSS, saying its results are not invalidated.

we need to work as a team to add value to your degree and that entails internal feedback and external PR
Dean of Business, Bournemouth University

Those of who have contacted the BBC describe special lectures to brief students on the survey, with a variety of suggestions as to how to fill it in to make their degree course look good. A link posted on the Live! discussion and also sent to the BBC reveals the Dean of Business at at Bournemouth calling the survey 'PR'. Some even mentioned being "threatened", or advice delivered with a "threatening overtone".

Hefce, while re-iterating that the results are not invalidated by these claims, told the BBC website that a "very small number" of cases had been brought to its attention and it was "confident that there is no evidence of systematic attempts to manipulate the survey outcomes".

The results feed into a number of league tables, including those published by the Guardian and the Good University Guide.

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Discussion about “Student Survey Problems Run Deeper”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
May 13 2008 19:54

The concensus that I seem to be getting is that "It's not cheating if all the other universities are doing it". If anything, it proves that there are too many people at university doing second rate courses that are clutching at straws to try and make their degrees stand out. The fact that so many staff within the universities are trying to inflate the rankings suggests that a point has finally been crossed, and degrees are worth less.

Coincidently, Imperial scored 50% on the NSS; much less than most other universities. Could this be dragging us down? Should we be cheating as well? It is grimly amusing as we are constantly told by our departments to fill in SOLE and make sure that the bad points are brought up so they can be sorted. Maybe the "slag off Imperial" attitude has spread to the NSS.

May 13 2008 19:59

It is also good that the BBC are having to follow up stories from Live! now!

3. hmm   
May 13 2008 22:03

I reiterate:

That's because only suck ups and tards do SOLE. The results are biased.

The NSS get results saying 'IC sucks' because they pester people at inappropriate times (i.e. during exams) as so that survey is biased the other way.

Shame it hits us in the league tables, but why care about an arbitrary measure of quality anyway?

May 13 2008 22:30

NSS rang me up and e-mailed me. I told them to leave me alone, and sod off - some of us work for a living and don't have time to answer pointless surveys that have no impact on our life. They didn't seem impressed, but finally got the message - and stopped hasseling me...

5. Lily   
May 14 2008 08:43

I'm impressed, even the Times had a leader article on it this morning!

Well done Ashley - breaking stories well before major news publications!

May 14 2008 09:59

(although I don't read it....just knew they like a good scandal and was seeing who else had reported on it!)

May 14 2008 10:12

Notable by its absence is the Guardian. I sent the story to their education team before the BBC.

They have just released their league tables, based in part on the NSS, so I'm not surprised...

May 14 2008 10:25

Ashley, I can't believe you're taking all the credit. How about acknowledging your sources? I'm beginning to really get jealous of your new snazzy keyboard thing. It means you can steal my scoops just because you are bored on the train. :-P

Although to be honest it wasn't really the story that caused all the fuss it was more you eagerness to send it on to all your media contacts that got this on the national scene. For that you can take all the credit. :o)

May 14 2008 10:30

I'm fairly sure I've published several messages mentioning, and links to, the original source site. You'll note that the original article was not published under my name, because it wasn't my story (even though I wrote it).

And my new keyboard gadget had nothing to do with it ;)

There is a reason I haven't mentioned the intermediate step between the website and the link getting to me - to preserve the integrity of valuable sources!

May 16 2008 17:25

Well, this is a bit of a result - new guidelines to be issued:

Now if only they would scrap it completely.

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