Is the NSS biased against Art and Design institutions?


Paperchase event, work by Lewis BushResearchers Mantz Yorke (Lancaster University), Susan Orr (UAL) and Bernadette Blair (Kingston University) recently published an article Hit by a perfect storm? Art & Design in the National Student Survey in the journal Studies in Higher Education. It suggests that ratings given to Art and Design subject disciplines in the UK’s National Student Survey are adversely affected by a combination of circumstances.

The research has been featured in a subsequent article in the Times Higher Education, in which Nigel Carrington comments that, although UAL takes the NSS seriously as a means of listening to our students, this research should also be taken on board:

“as this research sets out, the NSS is unconsciously biased against arts and design institutions. Its questions assume that students are being taught in lecture theatres and classrooms. That simply doesn’t reflect the way students learn practice-based subjects, from arts and design to some science and medical courses” 

As we approach the 10th year since the inception of the NSS, perhaps it is time to take on board Mantz, Orr and Blair’s recommendation that there needs to be ‘greater sensitivity of the instrument to subject disciplines if it is optimally to address the needs of intending students.’ 

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