Students spy on black sheep

July 28, 1995

Students at Oldenburg University in northern Germany will be encouraged to blow the whistle on professors who are not fulfilling their teaching duties.

This is one way in which university president Michael Daxner is planning to ensure that professors teach at least the minimum eight hours a week they are contracted for.

Professor Daxner's move follows numerous complaints by students as well as staff that "a few black sheep" were letting the rest down. From the next semester deans of faculty will monitor whether the 450 academic staff are carrying out the lectures, seminars and other student appointments their timetables claim.

Students have been assured that any complaints will be treated in strict confidence. The aim is to weed out timetables scheduled by some professors for bogus student groups.

Professor Daxner said: "Students are entitled to teaching. In the present situation of empty coffers, cutbacks in teaching posts and constantly increasing students numbers, we cannot afford to forego any lectures."

Professor Daxner believes only about 20 professors are guilty of flouting their teaching duties, or of just appearing to do them. He said the measure, supported by the deans, is to fend off state law.

A national outcry about "lazy professors" prompted the Conference of University Rectors to pledge to find ways in which the universities can self- regulate.

Earlier this year students at Hamburg University medical school accused their professors of "teaching fraud" after a staff-student evaluation group showed that 88 per cent of their professors were not fulfilling their minimum teaching load.

But the resulting bad publicity and investigation by the state's education authorities did not lead to any action against individuals.

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