Lecturer admits role in tutor firm

October 20, 2006

A part-time lecturer at Coventry University this week outed himself as a key force behind a company condemned by vice-chancellors as an "inappropriate" and "exploitative" business that could land students in trouble for cheating, writes Phil Baty.

The firm offers one-to-one tuition to students and promises to improve their grades.

Sean McGeogh, a politics module leader at Coventry, told The Times Higher that the business, Independent College and University Tutors, is a legitimate response to the poor-quality teaching offered by overcrowded and underfunded universities.

Dr McGeogh, who holds a PhD from Birmingham, where he taught for five years and was a widening participation and student-retention officer, is providing consultancy and helping to recruit £30-an-hour tutors.

"I'm not happy that there is a gap in the market for organisations such as ICUT," he said. "Everything that they provide should be provided by the university system.

"But as one who works in the sector, I know all too well that there is no money to offer the kind of remedial courses and individual tutorial support that today's students vitally need."

The Times Higher revealed in August that vice-chancellors were angry that ICUT had been targeting university campuses with advertisements.

The company offers private tuition, "essay support", proofreading services and, more controversially, promises on its website to give "advice on improving essay content and presentation, so as to raise grades".

Dr McGeogh said the company did not help students to cheat and should be embraced by the sector. "I know the failings of the university system, and I'm doing something constructive rather than just moaning," he said.

A Coventry spokesperson said: "While part-time members of staff are free to undertake other contracted employment, the university would undertake a full investigation where such activities resulted in a conflict of interest."

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