Bums on seats aren't everything 1

August 23, 2002

I was sad to read the obvious disillusion in Carol Jones's Soapbox piece ("Turning a blind eye", THES , August 16) but I am sure my and others' experiences as lecturers are very different.

At Luton University, we cannot compel students to attend classes, but we do award 10 per cent for "seminar participation and attendance" on one module. On another, students are required to prepare short "bullet-point" answers on case studies before seminars. If not, the module handbook states: "We reserve the right to exclude students."

Most students accept this as natural justice. Why should those students who haven't prepared ride on the backs of those who have? If you aren't there, ergo you can't participate. If you are there, the module team of seminar leaders will make sure that you participate.

Jones also talks about timetabling. It is usually possible to predict student enrolment on a module and to estimate seminar group numbers. This can be revised up or down after the first week by reviewing the number who attend the first lecture. As a member of a module team, I assume that Jones would have the opportunity to object to a regime that allows a single in-course assignment to be the only course assessment.

My views on student attendance have changed. I might pursue year/level 1 students vigorously, but I am more sanguine about others. As a now-retired colleague put it: "If you do attend my lectures and seminars, you are in severe danger of learning something that you didn't know. If you choose not to attend, that's your business and your loss."

Robert Hadland
Senior lecturer
Luton Business School

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