27 June 2019 • HOP, Melanie Zierse
National Student Survey can still be saved
The 2019 National Student Survey (NSS) doesn’t have to go straight in the bin. The CBS (Statistics Netherlands) still sees possibilities for rectifying the data, but research universities must be willing to share their students’ enrolment details.
As a result of the new privacy legislation, educational institutes can no longer simply share important details, such as degree programme, institution and location with third parties. That had dire consequences for the 2019 NSS, the satisfaction survey commissioned annually by the Studiekeuze123 foundation among almost 300 thousand students. This year, students had to complete those details themselves, which led to all kinds of mistakes.
Moreover, some students could not find the name of their degree programme in the drop down lists. For roughly 100 degree programmes, the old name was given and was therefore unrecognisable to students. They relatively often chose the option ‘Other, namely’. This meant that for part of the respondents there was no information about which degree programme they evaluated.
The universities of applied sciences had little faith that the mistakes could be rectified and they withdrew their cooperation with the 2019 NSS at the end of March with immediate effect. The research universities and the umbrella organisation for independent universities of applied sciences still saw possibilities and were prepared to wait for a follow-up survey by the CBS.
From that it now appears that “the answers in the 2019 NSS are insufficiently reliable to publish satisfaction scores per degree programme”. But there is still hope. The research agency sees two possibilities for rectifying the data.
The first option is that institutes nonetheless share students’ enrolment details, so the agency can check that they evaluated their own degree programme. According to the CBS, that is the “most efficient and best qualitative method” to correct the data. The drawback is that this ‘rectification’ depends on the willingness of research universities to provide this information.
Studiekeuze123 has asked the institutions to share the enrolment data, announced head of information management Pauline Thoolen. They must decide whether they are open to interpreting the new privacy legislation in broader terms. “The law can be interpreted in many ways. On the advice of lawyers, we have indicated that they can apply the ‘principle of legitimate interests’, but there is no consensus.”
The research universities are pleased with the report, says Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) spokesperson Bart Pierik. But, he still could not say whether they would cooperate. “It is not only about willingness but also about competence in a legal sense.”
If Studiekeuze123 does not get the enrolment details, the second option is to check what students filled in under the box ‘Other, namely’. But that would only correct 5 per cent of the responses.