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Calls for National Student Survey to be dropped due to the pandemic

OfS confirms work ongoing for the NSS, but teaching and student unions call for cancellation

The Office for Students has come under pressure to suspend the National Student Survey due to the coronavirus epidemic.

According to the regulator fieldwork for the National Student Survey – which assesses higher education student satisfaction in the UK—is still ongoing despite the growing number of universities shutting down face-to-face teaching and urging students to return home.

The OfS told Research Professional News that fieldwork had started on 6 January and was continuing, but it would be kept “under review” with survey firm Ipsos Mori. “We will look at the data when we get it to assess any impact the Covid-19 outbreak has had on the results” said a spokesman for the OfS, adding that it wanted to give all students the opportunity to take part as many already have.

But Claire Sosienski Smith, vice-president for higher education at the National Union of Students, urged the regulator to reconsider and said continuing with the survey could give the impression of a “skewed” sense of priority.

“If OfS pushes ahead with collecting data, what we will see is not a true picture of the student experience, but a snapshot of a year of disrupted education – first from strike action, which NUS supports, and secondly by the global pandemic,” she said. “With so many competing demands on providers’ time, the focus currently should be on student welfare and wellbeing, not on the effort that traditionally goes into promoting the NSS.”

Jo Grady, general secretary for the University and College Union, said the NSS “should be cancelled” in light of the coronavirus pandemic. “At this time the Office for Students should be focussing its resources on helping students and staff in universities to deal with the immediate concerns relating to the health crisis,” she said.

Covid-19 has already prompted the OfS’s counterparts in Research England to begin contingency planning around deadlines related to the Research Excellence Framework, the nationwide research assessment exercise.