Staff training not worthy of scorn 1

February 6, 2004

Frank Furedi ("Don't underestimate managers' ability to treat you as an idiot", THES , January 30) highlights academics' fears that managers are using staff development to whip them into line with university strategy.

However, his distrust of Tony Buzan's mind mapping is misplaced. Many people would testify that the technique has benefited their studies.

True, some staff development courses are, tragically, of indifferent quality. The teacher may not be up to scratch on the subject or, when he or she is, the course is so intensive as to be almost meaningless.

I have seen public speaking courses suitable for first-line supervisors delivered to seasoned executives. I have seen a talented tutor run a half-day course on role-play, that impressed the lecturers but was too short for them to grasp how to apply it in their work. In both cases, training managers could sign off the courses as "delivered".

University staff, like staff elsewhere, are not too good to need help in their work. Gary Day's amusing article (Opinion, THES , January 30) refers to seminars "sparsely populated, except by the hard core who persisted in showing up despite never having read the books".

The description of appalling education said to be offered by certain universities cries out for staff development so that academics leading seminars know how to routinely inform, educate and inspire their students.

Nicholas Beyts
London SW7

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