Student records 'just more red tape'

October 19, 2001

The introduction of compulsory personal and academic records for all undergraduates has been criticised by lecturers from Nottingham University, which is leading the national initiative.

Nottingham and Newcastle began the implementation of the new records at the start of this term following a five-university pilot funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The idea grew out of the Dearing committee's recommendations for transcripts recording individual students' achievements to aid lifelong learning and inform employers. The records are regarded as a new way to tackle personal tutoring within a modular system.

But just weeks into the implementation, lecturers at Nottingham have signalled their unease with a scheme that has been condemned as insulting and patronising for staff and a waste of time for students.

The Nottingham Association of University Teachers has carried out a survey of reaction to the records. Although there were favourable responses, it was concerned about negative feedback that focused on the intrusion into students' privacy and the costly bureaucracy involved.

One respondent said: "The system reduces genuine contact with students who need it to pointless paperwork for all... so much time is spent on documentation that none remains for actually talking to tutees."

Others were more worried about the personal impact on students. "Students are too intelligent and self-aware to require forced considerations of personal development in this heavy-handed way. It is just another sop to politicians," said another.

Another respondent said: "The records are a further bureaucratisation of student affairs and an intrusion of student privacy - I am amazed that students nowadays are so unconcerned with the proper boundaries of the university's knowledge of their activities and responsibility. Where will all this unjustified paternalism and infantilisation stop?" There was concern that personal tutoring was being reduced to box ticking. "The records won't promote student independence and reflective practice but will just instrumentalise the student-tutor relationship and overburden it with unwanted bureaucracy."

However, a Nottingham University spokesman said the record system was a new approach to careers guidance that offered students both academic and career development.

The personal and academic records enabled students to make regular reviews of their progress with the support of tutors and would maximise academic achievements and employment opportunities.

The project is led by the University of Nottingham and funded by Hefce under its fund for the development of teaching and learning. The second phase involved pilot records schemes in a range of disciplines at Reading and City universities.

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