NSS 2018

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

After about 5 years of tireless effort by NUS and others (but mainly NUS) it was agreed (by HEFCE) that the current national (HE) student survey [*] could include questions on environmental sustainability (which is an increasingly odd phrase).  The questions are:

Environmental sustainability

  • My institution encourages good environmental practice
  • My course has encouraged me to think about environmental sustainability
  • I have had opportunities to take part in activities supporting environmental sustainability

Good news, you might think – and it undoubtedly is.  However, these questions are optional in the sense that institutions can select them to be asked of their students.  So how much data turn up will depend on institutional choice.  Not that any of that matters much as we shall never know which institutions select them as HEFCE will not report at that level of detail.

However, I hope NUS will encourage student unions to encourage institutions with good sustainability records to go for this option.  And then to try to get hold of the data by the back door.

The wording that HEFCE is to use was not quite what NUS proposed.  This was:

  • My institution encourages good environmental practice
  • My studies have encouraged me to think about environmental sustainability in the context of my subject
  • I took part in environmental sustainability activities
  • I intend to use what I have learned to support environmental sustainability

You'll see that two were edited (which subtly changed meaning) and that the last one (about post-course intentions) was omitted.  It seems it did not survive the cognitive testing.

[*] NB, the questions are in the 2018 NSS, but the deadline to select them as an optional bank passed in November 2017 – well before NUS was told that they had been included and so had a chance to promote them.  It is likely that some institutions will have selected the questions.


NB, I said (above) that environmental sustainability looks an increasingly odd phrase.  This is because it implies that we have have environmental sustainability without thinking about social aspects or economic ones.  But it looks even odder now, given the emphasis which is placed on the sustainable development goals where social justice issues are so prominent a feature.

Time for another NUS campaign ...

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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  • When I finally dropped my eyebrows I had to wonder, what do these three questions (or the 4) from 5 years of research tell us ? That there may be an awareness of environmental sustainability. And as you say in the post what is meant by the term? The validity and reliability of these questions would not past muster with any graduate student who unwittingly presented them to me. Then the quantifying nature of the questions is non-existent - how much encouragement? what was encouraged? What activities? Broad sweeping generalizations for research? and five years to do it? Then self-selecting by the institutions? One assumes that it was published with lots more explanation? I think I need a drink before I beat my head on a brick wall 🙂