Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 106

Supplementary submission from Anand Raja[380]

  An Engineering Student in X University posted the following comment on the e-consultation run by our Committee. "I am very happy with my course. I have 30 hours of contact time. The coursework is gruelling and I am enjoying my time. I wish I had some opportunity for placements." Even a cursory look at the posted comments would reveal that among other things, students want two things out of their University Experience: intellectual challenge and training to face the world. Although the Engineering student could wait for June to enter a placement, he is lucky enough to get intellectual challenge and it will serve him well.

The vast majority of us are not so lucky. A lot of students are complaining that contact hours are less than enough. Quite a few lecturers are teaching with extreme distaste for the job, also reflected in negligible contact hours outside the lecture and poor feedback on written work. A lot of teaching is outsourced to postgraduates who often miss the mark. Group Tutorials are extinct.

  Teaching is a no priority in most departments because a department's sheen comes from its research performance, not the happiness of its undergraduates. In academic circles, rankings from the Research Assessment Exercise-which does not take into account student satisfaction, have far greater currency than rankings from Times Higher. In extremely competitive environments, individual promotions are also based on research output. I would find it strange if departments and individuals went all out to teach well. Is that why all the Vice Chancellors appearing before the committee were reluctant to directly answer the question Honble Chairman so frequently asks: would it not be wise to advertise how many contact hours a course would provide, who will teach and how.

  I think the task before us is to make teaching rewarding for departments and individuals. Opening more Universities and employing more teachers is also an answer. Why should students such as the Engineering Student at X University be a lucky minority?

April 2009

380   Student, University of Birmingham. Back

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