Thursday, April 20, 2006

More worthless degrees

More news on degrees being absolutely no guarantee of quality whatsoever.
University students with exam marks as low as 26% were given pass grades in an effort to reduce failure rates, documents reveal.

Leicester's De Montfort University raised marks for five modules of a pharmacy course in 2004, the Times Higher Education Supplement found.

In one, they were increased by up to 14%, details gained under the Freedom of Information Act show.

Well, that gives me immense confidence in the whole degree thing. Not. Luckily, de Montford University which has, let's face it, been a standing joke for years (ever since it had to advertise on TV for students) doesn't feel the same way.
The university said it had "every confidence" in its pharmacy course.

I'm sure that it has: I've every confidence in the course; it's the students passing through it that I have absolutely no confidence in.
It had previously been stated that students "were not up to the rigours of the programme [and] that they did not have the right attitude to study".

Lecture attendance was low and there was "a lack of work".

Is there anything that I need to add to this? Apart from the fact that I would never, ever associate "students" with "lack of work", obviously...
In 2004 staff were told that failure rates of 50% could put their jobs at risk, meeting minutes show.

Ah, the old job-saving initiative. One wonders if, just maybe, our university system just isn't very good; from my experience, the amount of time that lecturers spend actually teaching their students is pretty minimal. You can get away with that in the Arts, where critical thinking is the main thrust of the course, but not in sciences such as pharmacy.
At the meeting it was decided marks for first-year undergraduates doing the MPharm course should be raised by between 6% and 14%. Those for second-year students were boosted by 2%.

So, if in doubt, just realise that.. ahem... one may have been a little harsh with one's marking...
Two members of staff resigned in protest at the decision, the THES reported.

Nice to see that there were two people there who have some sort of integrity. Certainly, they have more integrity than de Montford's Pharmacy degrees...
In 2005 the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain placed De Montfort "on probation" after investigating allegations of "marking irregularities".

It returned to the university this year, finding "substantial progress" and that "assessment procedures were appropriate".

Examiners were now "in no doubt standards were being maintained and were comparable to those elsewhere in the sector", the society said.

Ah, de Montford has pulled its socks up, and now its degree courses are merely debased rather than being completely valueless. That's good to see.
[A spokesman for de Montford] said: "We continue to have every confidence in the quality and robustness of the pharmacy modules and course, in the staff that teach the modules and in our students."

It's a pity that those two members of staff who resigned didn't share his confidence...

Part of the problem with all of this is the way in which universities are funded. The emphasis on research and published works ensure that, in order for the university to gain government funding, lecturers are forced to spend increasing amounts of time doing anything other than teaching students (which does not attract funding) and ensuring that students pass the courses in whatever way they can (which also gains funding). Once more, institutions attached to governments are screwed up by government involvement.

Can we just privatise everything now, and cut away the dead hand of the state? Pretty please?

UPDATE: Allan is good on this...


Jim said...

Advertising on TV is always a low point for universities - and they couldn't even get Patrick Stewart like Huddersfield...

Seriously, if universities were privatised, would it make that much difference? Us students already pay for (at least part of) our education, and if we wanted changes to the way we were taught, we could claim our rights as paying customers - someone like Frank Ellis could be got rid of via consumer boycott. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I have mixed views on this.

I attended an Oxbridge college just a few years before the blessed Dave did. Of course because it was Oxbridge we were assumed to be far too bright to need and in any event our tutors were rightfully far too busy to spend a great deal of time "teaching" us. I'd better admit (perhaps foolishly in retrospect) that I read an "arts" degree (not English). Let's say we had to do three essays a fortnight in three eight week terms a year. The tutorials were usally a maximum of an hour. And any tutorials in the last week of term usually got washed out one way or another. So in any eight week term one got about ten hours of tutor contact a term. That is of coutse no more tha thgirty hours per annum. As for lectures on offer they invariably had nothing to do with what one was directly studying. So my experience of Oxbridge education at that time was literally take it or leave it.

Since then and relatively recently I have both studied as a student and taught in higher education establishments. Both as a student and as a lecturer I worked 60/70/80 hours a week, more than I had ever had to do before as a an undergrad (different story I know for medics etc), and just as much as I have as a professional.

My conclusions inter alia include:

1. so far as the arts goes, there is little overlap between research and teaching; the idea that an eighteen year old undergrad really benefits from a top don in his/her field is a joke

2. if people need teaching, teach them and if you are teaching do not pretend you are doing anything else

3. if the people you are teaching are not up to it, don't be PC, admit it to them and yourself and save everyone else the cost and effort

3. John Major got it wrong (along with just about everything else). Instead of making polytechnics universities, he should have made a large number of universities polytechnics

Anonymous said...

what's your degree in DK?

Devil's Kitchen said...


I don't have one. I did two years of Microbiology but droppped out when I found that I seemed to have signed up for 4 years of A Level-style, "just regurgitate what your lecturers say and you'll pass the exams" (my tutor actually said that to me in my first term) tedium. I wanted to think for myself, to propose new ideas. Anyway, I digress...

I wanted to work in my (self-taught) profession of design. But mainly I just wanted to work and earn a wage: I have expensive tastes...


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