The National Student Survey Scandal

Kingston University, like other UK Higher Education institutions, administers the annual National Student Survey on behalf of the government.

Click HERE to read about how it goes about administering the survey and what it tells students prior to their completing the survey.

For those who are unfamiliar with the National Student Survey and its stated purpose, the following document published by HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council of England) offers a clear outline. Interestingly, there appears to be no specific intent for the survey to be utilized by prospective employers in determining the quality of degrees received by students:-

Now the Government has responded and the matter has been brought to the floor of Parliament.

Read THIS article to learn more


Artressa Phunding Releases NEW Music
(because we just want to know WHY?)

Scott Song (Reprise)

(dedicated to the brave souls who recorded
the Kingston University National Student Survey Scandal)

Coming Soon:-
Fiona - The Video
Scott Song (Reprise) - The Video

Here's our current favorite press article on the
Kingston University National Student Survey Scandal

(to see the article in its original form click HERE)

(to see the article in its original form click HERE)

Comments from the Imperial College Student Website on the National Student Survey Scandal

25. Leo   
May 14 2008 13:29
 As a lecturer in a Russell Group university, where I can emphatically state that we don't do ANYTHING like this, it makes my blood boil. We've been under huge pressure over the last year because of what our senior management perceive to be a relatively poor NSS rating, especially in relation to feedback (which is cited specifically in this recording). I also feel that the NSS is in many ways fundamentally unfair: I'm afraid it's only human nature that people more motivated to fill out one of these forms if they got something to complain about and less so if they don't have any problems. So many of the satisfied customers simply don't submit an entry at all.

So, we've been honest and aired our dirty laundry in public. Being honest with myself, there have been instances (usually due to overwork, administrative duties, staff illness etc.), when the time taken to return feedback on summative assessments has been too long. But, thanks to these unscrupulous individuals at Kingston trying to bully their students into submit NSS entries which may not reflect their true feelings about the place, we've probably been made to look worse, comparatively speaking, than we actually are.

I think the Russell Group should take a lead and take a collective decision that its member institutions should boycott the NSS until there is some sort of system in place which at least reduces the chances of this happening again. What this recording shows is that in its current form, it has the potential to hide institutional failings in some universities and exaggerate them in others.

All kudos to the students who made and published this recording.

26. Anonymous   
May 14 2008 18:00
 I am one of the over 100 3rd year Psychology students who attended that lecture a couple of months ago. Dr Fiona Barlow Brown is indeed a lecturer, actually module leader for some modules. My hat off for whoever thought of recording this. We also have other Psychology lecturers who they are trying to get rid of because of their views regarding the university and the higher education system in general. The Social Psychology lecturers are brilliant and encouraged us to complain so there is some good at KU.


Comments from the Richard Brennan's Blog on the National Student Survey Scandal

Emma said...

I went to Kingston uni first as an undergraduate and then as a PhD student. This behaviour is very typical of the staff mentioned, particualry Fiona. Fiona is engaged to the Head of Psychology and thinks she can get away with everything as a result. When I was working as a memebr of staff whilst doing my PhD this was the kind of thing she would ask us to do.

There is so much favouritism at this uni and many staff are unhappy.

Fiona once told me to give a student a low mark because she kept complaining. She should be sacked for this but because of her fiance being so high up in the uni it probably won't happen
15 May 2008 17:11

Here's what the
Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE)
had to say in response to
the public interest disclosure of
Kingston University's actions in connection with
the National Student Survey:-

When was this first brought to the attention of HEFCE officials?

What 'appropriate next steps' require mere 'discussion' between HEFCE and Kingston University?
Given HEFCE's oversight role, why don't they simply order Kingston to take very specific steps?
And why don't they issue strong formal sanctions against the University, in order to send a message to other universities who might otherwise consider engaging in similar practices?

If this matter had been previously brought to the attention of HEFCE, why did Sir Peter Scott apparently fail to take action to ensure that this debacle did not recur until the matter was exposed in the press?


So what has HEFCE decided should be the appropriate sanction against Kingston University for its actions in connection with the National Student Survey?
Will they end up removing the Department of Psychology from the League Tables for a year?

Stay tuned for further reports on the outcome of this scandal.

Here is a set of e-mail correspondences with HEFCE's Head of Assurance, Paul Greaves:-

Sent: 17 June 2008 08:33
Subject: Kingston University - National Student Survey Outcome

Dear Mr. Greaves,

Thank you for your letter of 21 May 2008 regarding my public interest
disclosure concerning Kingston University's actions in connection with
the National Student Survey.

I am told that HEFCE has decided to impose the sanction of removal of
Kingston University's Department of Psychology from the League Tables
generated from the results of the Survey for a period of one year. Can
you confirm whether or not this is, indeed, the case, and if so, for
what year (s) the removal from the League Tables will be applied?

I await your prompt reply with further details of HEFCE's planned

Thank you for your kind assistance.




Subject: RE: Kingston University - National Student Survey Outcome
Date: 18 June 2008 13:22:49 BST


Your source on this matter is incorrect: we have not reached a decision
on whether to impose a sanction on Kingston University's Department of

Our position on NSS is that we are strengthening our guidance to the
sector and we will outline sanctions available to us when we receive
unequivocal evidence that manipulation of the results has taken place.
This could include public suppression of the results.

Yours sincerely

Paul Greaves
Head of Assurance

Sent: Wed Jun 18 13:32:41 2008
Subject: Re: Kingston University - National Student Survey Outcome

Dear Mr. Greaves,

Surely you can't be serious that the recorded evidence does not
constitute 'unequivocal evidence' of manipulation of the NSS?
No one familiar with the case could possibly take such a view. How
much more than audio recordings would be required?




From: P.Greaves
Subject: Re: Kingston University - National Student Survey Outcome
Date: 18 June 2008 16:46:17 BST
To: xxxxxxxxxx


I have answered your previous question and explained our policy. I have nothing to add to my email of this morning.

Paul Greaves

Webmaster's Note:
This correspondence speaks loudly on its own.
It must, however, be noted that according to reliable sources, Prof Gail Cunningham, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has revealed that Kingston University has, in fact, been sanctioned by having the Department of Psychology removed from the League Table for the current year.

Kingston University has confirmed the accuracy of this source.
So if this is true, why did Mr Greaves deny the reports regarding sanctions against the University?

Who is telling the truth? Is it HEFCE or Gail Cunningham?
And if one of these parties is not
being truthful, why is this the case?

If she was not telling the truth, could it be that Prof Cunningham was attempting to intimidate staff members into silence by telling them that they would suffer damage to their careers as a result of the University being sanctioned by HEFCE in connection with the National Student Survey scandal?

What do YOU think?

Surrey Comet, 16 July 2008:-

There is one key passage that the Comet gets wrong in its account of the aftermath of the NSS scandal: It is confirmed according to the actual minutes of a 'training event' held in the Department of Psychology, that Prof Gail Cunningham, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, informed staff that "As a result HEFCE has decided that the Psychology NSS score cannot be released this year."

This means that UNLESS HEFCE is not being forthcoming about its actions, Prof Cunningham has not been truthful to staff members, when she indicates that HEFCE has decided that the Psychology Department's NSS scores cannot be released."

If Prof Cunningham has been untruthful, why is this the case?
Could it be because she was trying to bully staff members into keeping silent in the future if they learn about misconduct having taken place at the University?

In other words, is Prof Cunningham trying to bully staff members into closing ranks in order to support a culture of coverups surrounding quality of service issues?

Is there anything else that Prof Cunningham has been untruthful about?
What do YOU think?

The Truth Comes Out
Kingston University Psychology Department
IS Expelled From The League Tables

According to an article in the July 26 2008 BBC Online News, HEFCE has expelled Kingston University's Psychology Department from this year's League Tables for its role in falsifying the results of the National Student Survey. This article appears to clear up some of the reported controversy surrounding whether or not the Department had, indeed, been expelled from this year's League Tables. Although the article doesn't resolve the question of who was/wasn't telling the truth about the sanction against Kingston, since it is not clear when the decision was actually taken by HEFCE, what the article does establish with great certainty is that HEFCE has now taken this action and Kingston has "accepted" the results of HEFCE's decision.

But despite this action having been taken, there is no evidence that Kingston has taken disciplinary action against the staff members involved in this scandal. Both Fiona Barlow-Brown and Fred Vallee-Tourangeau remain employed by the University.

Similarly, after Dr David Osbon of the now former School of Music wrote a false and defamatory external reference for Ms Lori Fredrics, which led to an Employment Tribunal claim against Dr Osbon and the University, Dr Osbon was promoted from Senior Lecturer to Principal Lecturer. Interestingly this promotion came shortly after he declined to reveal whether or not a member(s) of management had instructed him to take negative actions against Ms Fredrics.

It is interesting to note that when Dr Howard Fredrics reported serious concerns about quality of service and health and safety issues, including possible instances of fraud and a conflict of interest, he was dismissed from his post as Senior Lecturer.

What does this apparent double standard say to YOU about whether or not the University is serious about preventing fraud and improving quality of education, not to mention protecting staff and students from risk of injuries?


Date:  Tue, May 27, 2008 1:10 pm

Dear Dr Fredrics

Thank you for your email of 30 April, addressed to the 'DIUS, Ministers' mailbox, about the National Student Survey (NSS) and Kingston University.

This Department completely condemns any attempts made to try and distort the Survey’s outcomes.  The value and strength of the NSS is its ability to capture the views of final year students on a range of aspects of their teaching and learning experience.  This is beneficial both to prospective students, providing a rich source of information on institutional quality alongside the rest of the data available on the Unistats website, and also as a tool to help guide institutional improvement.

We are aware that Kingston University has conducted a thorough investigation of this incident and taken action.  The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which manages the NSS, takes very seriously any suggestion that the results of the NSS have been inappropriately influenced in higher education institutions (HEIs).  Where such allegations are brought to its attention, and only a very small number have been in the four years the NSS has been running, it takes appropriate action.  HEFCE will be re-issuing guidance to HEIs on how to ensure active student engagement without inappropriate influence.

This Department fully believes in the survey’s credibility and are confident that there is no evidence of systematic attempts to manipulate the survey outcomes by institutions.  We also recognise that the vast majority of students take a robust and open approach to answering the questions as they see fit.

Yours sincerely
Lisa Ward
Public Communications Unit
On behalf of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

The University of Kingston's Psychology Department Will Be Excluded From This Year's NSS
After Lecturers Were Found To Have
Pressured Students Into Inflating Their Scores

Prof Gail Cunningham
Dean of FASS

Fiona Barlow-Brown, a senior lecturer in psychology, was taped telling students: "If you think something is a four, give it a five because that's what everybody else is doing." She added that the students would not get jobs if the university came bottom in the league tables.

A spokesman for the Higher Education Funding Council for England said this week: "I can confirm that we have decided, and told the university, that their data for psychology will not be published."

Times Higher Education has seen minutes from a Kingston psychology department meeting on 3 June in which Gail Cunningham, dean of the faculty of arts and social sciences, is reported as saying that the department is seen as "dysfunctional" inside the university.
Times Higher Education Supplement - 31 July 2008