Digital watchmen

November 5, 2015

I cannot be the only reader who felt a sense of profound gratitude on reading of the efforts of Gavin McLachlan, chief information officer and librarian at the University of Edinburgh, to help academics such as myself to juggle the competing demands of teaching, research and administration (“Marking an essay? Big Brother may be watching...”, News, 29 October). His commitment to aiding us in our attempts to achieve “excellence” in our marking and assessment activities, via a process of rigorous digital surveillance, is to be warmly welcomed. I can only join Phil Richards, chief innovation officer at Jisc, in lamenting the prospect that some of my less enlightened colleagues may offer “tacit resistance” to this initiative and reassure him that in such matters, as in so much of contemporary university management, all resistance will doubtless prove useless.

Their inspiring words did, however, raise one question in my mind. For neither made any mention of the forms of digital surveillance that will ensure that those conducting the surveillance to ensure that our work is “excellent” are themselves conducting such surveillance in a suitably “excellent” manner. In the absence of any such clarification, I can only conclude that our two admirable colleagues risk leaving the “excellence loop” dangerously open.

One of my older colleagues has just informed me of a well-known Latin phrase that apparently covers such cases. However, I cannot help but suspect that his age, combined with his recourse to Latin, marks this colleague out as a member of that class of academic who may foolishly “resist” these important initiatives. In such circumstances,
I feel it would be preferable if McLachlan and Richards could inform us of their own response to my concerns, a response doubtless free of that regrettable tendency to resist new initiatives that they have identified with such perspicacity.

Jeremy Lane
University of Nottingham


Send to

Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com

Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday. View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Marketing Campaigns Officer

University Of Chichester

Professor or Associate Professor in Structural Engineering

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

School and College Engagement Officer

University Of Chichester

PhD Position in Computional Biology

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Analyst

Greenwich School Of Management Ltd
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework

people dressed in game of thrones costume

Old Germanic languages are back in vogue, but what value are they to a modern-day graduate? Alice Durrans writes