Thursday, October 20, 2011

Students Nominate Best Lecturers

Students nominate best lecturers.

A new scheme offers the antidote to nasty online ratings: a chance for students to praise their lecturers.

"I wouldn't say she's the worst professor I've ever had, just not terribly inspiring," writes one student on's UK website. Others describe various individual lecturers as: "patronising and not very bright", "nice person, but worthless teacher", "supremely egotistical", "mad as a box of badgers", and simply "awful, awful man".
Never before have students had such opportunities to let off steam when they feel their university teaching has failed to come up to scratch, and never before have lecturers been so publicly at their mercy. RateMyProfessors, used in the US for the last 12 years, started soliciting comments from UK students five years ago and covers well over 1,000 UK lecturers, rating them for easiness, helpfulness, clarity, interest, and whether or not they are "hot". Then there is the National Student Survey, which for the last seven years has asked final-year students to rate qualities such as teaching, feedback and organisation on their course. This year's annual report from the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, set up in 2004 to handle student complaints, showed that these had risen by a third in the last year, and predicted that they were likely to rise even more sharply following next year's increase in tuition fees.
The government's white paper, "Students at the Heart of the System", also seems to envisage students speaking out if they are unhappy with their learning. In a Guardian online chat last week, the universities minister, David Willetts, urged students to raise concerns about practical aspects such as getting work back and contact time. He predicted: "Our finance changes will strengthen the student voice on these issues."
But this Thursday sees the launch of a project that takes a more positive approach to student involvement.


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