Not on the cards

January 16, 1998

Students at the University of Florence have complained that official questionnaires that invite them to evaluate the teaching abilities of their professors are potentially counterproductive.

"Didactic evaluation forms", commonly referred to as professors' report cards, were introduced experimentally two years ago as part of a ministerial initiative to base allocation of funding to individual universities on the quality of services rendered. Initially hailed by students as a major breakthrough and the long-awaited fruit of their persistent complaints, it seems that the report cards have turned sour.

A students' union representative said: "Faculties with poor standards, often due to lack of staff or inadequate facilities, are beingfurther penalised through cuts in funding, making matters worse.

"Meanwhile, those who enjoy higher quality standards are being rewarded with increased funding which they do not really require. There is a feeling that our report cards are being used by the powers-that-be as an excuse to reallocate funding as it suits them."

A final-year law student said: "The only positive thing about the report cards is that students get the chance to let off steam in anonymity, therefore without fear of reprisals. That the results are not made public means there is no way of checking whether measures are being taken against offending professors. The questions often touch on matters of secondary importance and do not always give us the opportunity to express our most pressing criticisms."

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