Student emails baffle tutors

June 20, 2003

Students are increasingly using email to communicate with their lecturers in ways that baffle and infuriate academics, according to a survey of Information and Communications Technology use among staff and students at eight European universities.

"Students now readily email me in a form that they might use to text (via a mobile phone) their friends. It's overfamiliar, over-intrusive and, frankly, unintelligible," one academic said.

The survey, carried out by the European group of leading European universities, shows that some academics fear a collapse of the traditional boundaries between staff and students.

"Teachers are getting more and more unnecessary emails from students. They are very informal and about things that students should think twice about before calling their teachers or writing a letter," another academic complained, adding: "And the students expect a reply straight away. It is very annoying."

The survey warns that student expectations of ICT provision and availability are probably rising faster than institutions can meet them.

Students and staff warn of a rise in plagiarism because of widespread use of ICT. One undergraduate said: "Of course, it is very easy to find essays and articles from other people on the internet and, because there is so much out there, I think it can be very difficult for teachers to trace plagiarism."

Since late 2001, Europaeum, which includes Oxford University, has been undertaking an inquiry into how European universities can help lead the changes needed in the face of the knowledge revolution.

A series of conferences has been held, the third of which will take place in Bonn this weekend.

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