Barely managing

Unfortunate management students might be forgiven for not appreciating it, but there’s something touchingly ironic about a department that hopes to train the movers and shakers of the future, yet appears to have little idea what its lecturers are getting up to. A business guru with even the shakiest credentials could surely diagnose some serious problems with the teaching methods employed; that it took a student-organised survey to expose them is worrisome to say the least.

Firstly, this underlines the importance of student consultation. Undergraduates have never paid more for their university education, and have the right to expect value for money. As has been discussed before in these pages, data on the quality of teaching across all academic subjects is incomplete, imprecise and often very misleading. Often, students must resort to guesswork based on a department’s research standing, and many academics will argue privately that the figures are just as useless when it comes to what happens outside the lecture halls as inside them. Knowledge and expertise aren’t easy things to measure. Students are the people best placed to judge the enthusiasm and competence of their lecturers. This is by no means the whole story, but it’s a good first step.

This said, the state of the management department is a cautionary tale on the damage that a myopic focus on targets, measures and money can wreak in an academic environment.

Academics are here to teach and research, and they should be allowed to do so without being subjected to a barrage of administrivia. Of course, pressure should be applied, but in the right places – otherwise lazy teaching and indifferent attitudes will slip past unnoticed, and students will be the first to suffer.

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