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Much Ado About Something: The effects of the National Student Survey on Higher Education

Frankham, J (2015) Much Ado About Something: The effects of the National Student Survey on Higher Education. Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool.

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Abstract

This report describes how the National Student Survey (NSS) is currently impacting on the environment into which it was introduced a decade ago. It is based on interviews with thirty-four academics working in the humanities in the North West of England, and these data are used here to develop a narrative account of the NSS. The report describe academics’ working lives in respect of the NSS and foregrounds some of the contradictions, tensions and consequences of the survey. Volunteers to be interviewed included heads of department, programme leaders, module leaders and staff with responsibility (at different levels) for overseeing the NSS. The report begins with a section ‘Through a glass darkly’ in which I summarise academics’ perceptions of how students respond to the survey. The section describes the relative disinterest academics perceive students have in the survey and its consequences. This is followed by a section ‘Through the looking glass’ in which I describe the effects of the NSS on academics’ working lives. The survey – which appears relatively insignificant to students – is described as hugely significant when viewed through the lens of academic workload and experience. ‘Illuminations’ focuses on the issues that the NSS brings to the surface and that academics are responding to, as a consequence. The term ‘illuminations’ is employed in order to underline the sometimes distorting effects that shining a light on something can have. ‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall’ describes how the NSS has encouraged the adoption of other surveys and feedback mechanisms throughout undergraduate degree programmes and the effects of this proliferation. The report ends with ‘People in glass houses not throwing stones’. This section considers how continuing use of the survey may diminish educational possibilities. The use of this series of metaphors associated with glass and mirrors is a response to the claim that the NSS increases ‘transparency’ in terms of the accountability of public services. The report problematises such a notion.

Item Type: Other
Uncontrolled Keywords: higher education, audit, quality, performativity
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions: School of Education
Publisher: Liverpool John Moores University
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2016 08:12
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2016 10:54
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/2554

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