Missing variations on a funding theme with a bitter twist of experience

January 27, 1995

Your items about quality assurance (THES, January 13) and the concern of vice chancellors, seems remote and out-of-tune with my recent experiences. I offer two examples.

A former HMI who used to work in the higher education system tells me that his daughter, a university don, has to mark 206 assignments in nine days (the period between submission date and the timetabled meeting of the examination board), in addition to normal (sic) work; the nine days including two weekends.

Assuming that on average, a 2,000-word essay takes 30 minutes to read, digest and evaluate -- never mind writing comments on the script and so on -- 206 pieces of work means 100-plus hours of marking, or more than 11 hours a day for nine days.

And my friend wonders, when is it imagined that his daughter will eat and sleep -- how she will survive this academic sweat shop? His anger is tangible.

In contrast, I am in the happy position of being employed part-time. The university for which I work pays me at the rate of half an hour for every 3,000-word assignment marked. In fact, an assignment, including writing a page of formative comments about each script, takes about 90 minutes. If there is any quality in these arrangements, I am paying for it. Perhaps a vice chancellor would comment.

Antony Noble 7 Charlbert Court, Charlbert Street London NW8

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