Poor English, plagiarism and no-shows...

January 13, 2006

... The Times Higher asks academics what they find most frustrating about their students

"Although, for the most part, my students are bright and well motivated, there are some nagging annoyances that make the hairs on the back of my neck rise. Foremost of these is the poor quality of written English I encounter. Examples include a complete inability to punctuate correctly (commas being an exercise in chaos theory), treating each sentence as a separate paragraph and a lack of any notion of proper sentence construction."

Anonymous psychologist

"The propensity to complain and take their complaints to extreme levels. Since the introduction of fees, there has been a noticeable change in mindset among students - as they have paid for their education then it is theirs by right. Last week I had to deal with a written complaint from a student (direct to the head of department) about the fact that I had employed negative marking in a test for which "yes" and "no" were the only possible answers. Trying to convince her that a test in which she could pass by guesswork alone was not educationally valid took some doing."

Anonymous geneticist

"The few students who plagiarise by cutting and pasting from online sources annoy me. What upsets me is not so much their cheating but rather their stupidity, as this behaviour is becoming easily detectable thanks to developments in software."

Anonymous historian

"The preoccupation with marks and the readiness of some to go for the quickest fix to maximise the chances of achieving a 'good' result. But equally there are some who actively seek demanding material and the assessment tasks that go with that. I have serious reservations about the nature and purpose of this survey - it's the oldest snitch in the world to complain about students. Most are doing their absolute best and are doing damn well in a generous and courteous mode."

Anonymous French lecturer

"What I find increasingly hard to take is the fact that they can't tell the difference between learning and being taught. They will gaze blankly at the exercise they are supposed to have prepared and then say: 'Oh, but we haven't been taught that.' I had a colleague in another university who said: 'At the beginning of the year I hate all students en masse; at the end of the year I hate them all individually'. Fortunately, it hasn't got to that."

Anonymous Orientalist

"Those students who fail through no reason other than sheer laziness and then use every mechanism in the book to try to lever their way back into the university to get a qualification. One can deal easily with those who have a genuine reason, but those pulling the 'raw paw' will do everything they possibly can to try to trip you up over a procedural irregularity. It only relates to a small group of our students, but it wastes a lot of time."

Anonymous geographer

"A lot of time and effort goes into designing and writing lectures and it is frustrating when students do not bother to attend. I need to work a 45-hour week just to keep on top of the teaching and administration. Students who do not bother to turn up to help themselves gain the necessary knowledge to pass their exams thus annoy me greatly. But there are still many students who try hard and make the preparation and delivery of lecture material worthwhile."

Anonymous biological scientist

"The declining academic ability and lack of independent thinking among our new students is a concern. They are taught in a 'nanny' system that spoon-feeds them and does not appear to teach any ability for independent thinking or learning. The majority of my students will turn up for the lecture and tutorial, do some work and then forget everything they have just done until the next week when we almost have to start over again."

Anonymous computer scientist

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