Nouse speaks to the candidates running for the position of YUSU Academic Affairs Officer:
What are the strengths and weaknesses of your predecessor/current term?
Eppie Leishman: The strengths are that they focused on assessment and feedback. This was a big strength, something the university really needs. The 24 hour library opening which was pushed through by the previous and current academic officers was also strength. However I don’t think the position has been as visible as it should be. It needs to be a really strong position.
Graeme Osborn: I think I have got off to a good start this year. After securing 24-hour library opening in my first couple of months (there had previously been no agreed date; the library hadn’t even worked out how much it would cost them), I have worked with individual departments to reduce feedback time so that next year we can lobby for the 6-week deadline to be reduced. I am in the early stages of running an academic campaign on assessment and feedback, which will be my focus for the rest of the year. My lobbying the university for better quality teaching has resulted in several hundred thousand pounds being allocated for new academics to reduce student-staff ratios and for better training for post-graduate teachers. This year’s Course Rep elections were also the most successful ever and my restructuring of the Course Rep system has provided Reps with more support and replaced the ineffective Faculty Rep position with Faculty Coordinators and Lead Reps.
Do you think a first is now easier to obtain than in previous years?
EL: I don’t think that’s necessarily true. It’s like GCSE’s people say it’s easy but I don’t think it’s ever easy to get a first.
GO: The introduction of the new modular scheme (NMS) has meant that all departments now have to use the same calculations for working out a student’s degree classification. Previously, different departments used different methods, meaning that in some subjects it was much easier to get a first than others (e.g. one department required five 70+ and no marks below 60, whilst another required a mean average of 70). Whilst this makes it easier in some departments and harder in others, it means that every student now has to achieve the same results to get a first.
Do you think a humanities/social sciences student is getting value for their money?
EL: I think that is a real issue. I think value for a degree is an issue especially with the fees. For social science, arts, humanities students contact time can be really really bad but for sciences they need better facilities as well. I think everyone needs value for money it’s not just about these subjects.
GO: Whilst I do think that most art/humanities and social sciences students are getting value for money, there is a great variety of standards across departments. This doesn’t just mean the number of contact hours, but also the speed and quality of feedback and the type and quality of the teaching and teaching spaces. Next year we need make sure that all students are getting the education they deserve; whilst the ‘value for money’ argument can be useful when lobbying for improvements, we must not let students become ‘consumers’ in the eyes of the university.
How will you get all departments to have a 70% student satisfaction on feedback next year?
EL: I think it’s a big promise to make and it’s going to be interesting to see if it can be delivered. I think we really need to work with reps and students to find out what they want and put forward what students really want not just what we as officers want.
GO: This year, 16 (out of 26) subject areas achieved a score of below 70% in the National Student Survey (NSS) for assessment and feedback. To improve this requires cultural change in a number of departments. I will start by looking at the questions asked; too often departments come up with solutions which don’t address the specific problem (for instance, changing the feedback form, when actually feedback is taking too long, or students don’t think the marking arrangements are fair). I will work with Course Reps, departments and the University to address the specific issues raised in the survey and build upon the assessment and feedback campaign I am running for the rest of this year.