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02 DECEMBER 2012

University students face a constant stream of questionnaires designed to assess the standard of their courses

"I'm more bothered by the underlying assumptions about what makes good university teaching that lie behind many of these surveys. You can see them particularly clearly in the National Student Survey, and the reams of student feedback it publishes online – explicitly, so it says, to help prospective students choose a good course, and to help universities 'enhance the student learning experience'. ...

OK, I can see how at first sight that might seem obvious. Who, after all, wants to see their kids go off to university, at great expense, for a diet of dis–satisfaction? But, from where I sit, dissatisfaction and discomfort have their own, important, role to play in a good university education. We're aiming to push our students to think differently, to move out of their intellectual comfort zone, to read and discuss texts that are almost too hard for them to manage. It is, and it's meant to be, destabilizing.

At the same time, we're urging them never to be satisfied with the arguments they are presented with, never to take things on trust, always to challenge, always to see the weak points, or to want to push the argument further. Then along comes the National Survey, treats them as consumers, and asks them if they're satisfied."

(Mary Beard, BBC News, 2 December 2012)

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2012anonymityassumptionsbureaucratic reductionchallenging conventional thinkingcomfort zoneconsumer culturecriticismcustomer satisfactiondepersonalising • destabilizing • discontent • dissatisfactionHigher Education Funding Council • honesty • Mary Beard • National Student Surveyperformativitypower without responsibilityquestionnaire • RateMyProfessor • satisfaction • satisfied consumers • satisfied students • student feedback • student learning experience • suggestions • surveysurvey form • survey-fatigue • surveysteaching • think differently • TripAdvisor • trusttrust and reliabilityundergraduateuniversityuniversity educationuniversity teaching • useful comments

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Phil Nodding
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