Surrey staff shortages take toll on courses

July 28, 2000

The University of Surrey, facing growing pressure after anonymous complaints about under-investment in staff, told The THES last week that it has one of the most favourable staff-student ratios of UK universities. It also denied the Association of University Teachers' claims that its spending on staff as a proportion of budget is one of the lowest in the sector.

But the assurances ring hollow for staff at Surrey's European Institute for Health and Medical Studies. A recent Quality Assurance Agency subject review of the nursing and midwifery courses provided by the EIHMS found "considerable evidence that staff shortages, because of vacancies not being filled, or absences because of long-term sick leave, had led to disruption and discontinuities in the delivery of some programmes".

Students had complained to the QAA assessors that their work had been undermined by staff shortages and that support was not always available "from staff who were under considerable pressure".

The QAA assessors found written comments on students' work to be "often inadequate" and said it frequently took "four to six months" for marked work to be returned to students. The assessors said "significant improvement" was needed to the quality of teaching, learning and assessment.

A spokesman for the university said: "Nursing and midwifery courses at the university received a satisfactory rating from the QAA. However, as in all teaching quality assessments, the assessors made a number of recommendations that are being addressed."

The university declined to comment on the EIHMS's financial position but said that a new acting head at EIHMS "has produced a plan to ensure the future sustainability of the venture", after the departure to another part of the university by former head Jim Bridges.

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