Sheldon admits faculty in crisis

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning, Teaching and Information, Trevor Sheldon, has admitted that the York Management School is in need of “radical improvement” after facing a backlash from students.

The criticisms come in the wake of the damning results of YUSU’s Student Satisfaction survey, and also after students took an exam for which they had to teach themselves a module’s worth of work because their lecturer taught straight from confusing slides borrowed from an American website.

The Student Satisfaction survey found that over 50% of Management students questioned described their exam feedback as “poor” or “appalling”, and more than 40% of students questioned said that the number of contact hours and procedural work they recieved was “not enough”.

Sheldon described the criticism as “disappointing, but not a major surprise” and said that “the results of the student survey reinforce and confirm what we found through the departmental review.” He said “if in a few years time things have not radically improved, then I wouldn’t be doing my job properly, and the department of Management wouldn’t be doing it’s job properly either.”

The survey asked students to rate their degree in a number of areas such as exam feedback, variety, supervisory support or facilities. It also asked students whether they thought their course provided too much work or too little.

Professor Steven Toms, the head of the York Management School, described the survey results as “pretty disappointing”, and said that “obviously, we need to act on this. It’s useful to have this information, and I think it’s important that we respond accordingly.”

He said that the department had taken note of the findings of the periodic review, and that “certain problems have been highlighted.” He continued “We have an action plan, and we’re going to follow it up in detail. I see there are some very specific points, and we will take action to follow them up. The scores on the feedback need to be improved, and that’s my job”
Many students directly criticised the Operations Management module, taught by Mr. Chizekie Okike, who according to a first-year Management student who did not wish to be named, “didn’t even seem to understand the module himself.”

A large number of students pointed to the fact that Mr. Okike’s lectures were taught directly from a series of slides that had been taken from the website of Reid and Sanders, a US management firm.

Okike’s students called a meeting in which they appealed to Dr. Kathryn Haynes, the Head of Undergraduate Studies, for assistance. Her reported response to the students was “this year doesn’t matter, you only need 35%” and her reported excuse for the poor quality of the lectures was that “the lectures are on a Friday afternoon… Friday afternoon is not the best time for him.”

In order to help students pass the Operations Management module, Jibran Dahir, a first-year Management student, used Facebook to post condensed revision notes and course summaries of his own online to supplement those they were given them by Okike.

Dahir says that he made this group to “help struggling students… and the response I received suggests that it did.” The response to the notes on the Facebook group include: “Jibran, you should lecture us in OM rather than Okike, we would so learn more!” and “Jibz is doing the job which Okike should have been doing right now.”

Dahir said “I would be personal by suggesting that the lecturer had terrible presentation skills and weak communication channels with the students, although many students thought it was the case.”

The criticisms were not confined to the Operations Management module. One student said that his degree was “not at all taxing” and another described the discussion groups as “pointless… like mini-lectures with more than 40 people in them.”

One student expressed her regret at attending York at all, saying “God, what am I doing on this course? I wish I’d gone to Leeds.” Another said “I might be at a good University but I am definitely in the worst department.”
Toms declined to comment on Okike’s performance as a lecturer directly, saying that he wanted to obtain the other side of the story first, but said that “if lecturers don’t do their job properly, then there is a University procedure which I would invoke.”

Jeffrey Wright and Nicky Woolf

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