Rate Your Lecturer has launched in the UK, proclaiming that its data – showing feedback and ratings out of 10 on named lecturers by university – will ultimately “generate an alternative ranking system to that of the norm”.
The website, which bills itself as being “by students for students”, states: “Universities and courses will be ranked purely on the lecturers’ ability to educate and inspire, rather than churn out research and publish articles.”
The initial results do not always suggest a sophisticated level of engagement.
A review for a professor of environmental engineering who has earned 10 out 10 from three reviews gives his pros as “Massive sense of humour, dwarfed by intellectual capability.” His cons are: “Profane when discussing LFC and MUFC [Liverpool Football Club and Manchester United Football Club].” Another gives the same academic’s pros as: “He’s the man!” While his cons in that review are: “There’s nothing wrong with perfection.”
Another lecturer, in early modern literature, gets a glowing review, saying that “his genuine desire to help you and make sure you get the best out of your time at Uni are clear from the get go - this is a man who really wants you to succeed”. The con is: “While not necessarily a bad thing, he is brutally honest with his feedback…He swears quite a lot, which some people might have a problem with.”
In the US, Rate My Professors – which has itself allowed posts about UK academics since 2008 - has had a big impact for some.
In 2012, Patrick Hicks, writer-in-residence at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was moved to write a 1,700-word response to a bad review on the site, in a posting on news website salon.com.
After describing Rate My Professors as “a public kind of scolding, and this one stung”, he ended up thanking the student “for making me think deeply about myself”.