Lack of trust is a real cause for complaint

June 11, 2009

On what basis can anyone expect to build a "relationship of trust between teacher and student" if students are dismissed as "not in a position to distinguish" good education from bad, and can only have their "needs" decided for them by tutors ("Now is the age of the discontented", 4 June)?

Do academics have no responsibility to build what Frank Furedi, the article's author, evidently believes to be that faintly repellent phenomenon, "a friendly atmosphere"? "Trust us," he would have us all say during induction week, "we know you're ignorant."

If we do live in a culture of complaint (the modest numbers he provides at the article's outset suggest his millennial language is a little overdone), Furedi's misty-eyed moaning is as prime a symptom of it as anything published by a quality assurance committee.

Thank goodness for your companion piece on recent cases dealt with by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education ("Unjustified student complaints"), which shows how universities can respond reasonably and respectfully when students are dissatisfied. Faced with such hectoring generalisations as Furedi serves up, most people would be.

David Roberts, John Henry Newman chair, Newman University College, Birmingham.

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