Times Higher Education recently encouraged responses to its cover feature “My student nemesis” (16 May) with a Twitter hashtag, #myworststudent. Having dropped some Twitter clangers in my time, I won’t seek to claim the high ground. However misjudged that original hashtag was, the response from students, #mybestlecturer, was a positive outcome. It showed that great lecturers can change lives for the better, and that is why the National Union of Students passionately believes in a partnership approach to education despite ministers seeking to convince us that treating it as a financial transaction would serve us better.
The NUS and the Higher Education Academy have developed and rolled out the Student-Led Teaching Awards (SLTA). Pioneered at one union in Scotland, the awards now involve nearly two-thirds of UK higher education institutions. The genuinely touching #mybestlecturer messages are similar to the tens of thousands of nominations students’ unions collect through the SLTA every year. We don’t do this just to be nice but rather to identify best teaching practice and to champion it.
Let’s hope more good will come from your proverbial slip of the tweet: I hope any vice-chancellor reading this has a look at the award website and reaches for the chequebook to start or redouble their support for students’ unions running the scheme.
Those whom academics consider their worst students might also be the ones with the most to deal with outside the lecture theatre. Let’s celebrate the thousands of lecturers who go out of their way to help their charges rather than being cynical about what can be an incredibly stressful period in life.
President, National Union of Students