Talkback:High student-staff ratios

Readers respond to last week's special report on the stresses in higher education
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The Independent Online
From AJP Dalton Madam: Until July last year I was a senior lecturer in health and safety at South Bank University, London. Lecturing on stress one day, I realised I had many of the symptoms I was teaching: worry, panic, sleeplessness, unable to organise my work, not taking holidays and so on. And I had been in the job just over two years! I was not the hardest working by any means.

I decided to leave, and on the day I left we buried a chemistry lecturer who retired early after 30 years of lecturing. She had been retired less than a year and lay six weeks in a coma from a stroke before she died. A term before, another lecturer in our relatively small department committed suicide for no apparent reason. Although some lecturers escaped by buying themselves out of teaching (and hence student contact!) to do research, that just left more for the rest of us. There are still some very good lecturers, technical and office staff, but even they were showing signs of burn-out. The students were sold short. In two years, I started off teaching 15 and ended up teaching 35; they were building more lecture theatres for 150.

I am no idealist, having studied chemistry at an old college of advanced technology, or CAT (forerunner of the poly) - now Bath University - in the late Sixties, worked in industry and taught in colleges in the late Eighties. But the situation today in many new universities for both students (who on my courses were excellent) and staff is appalling. This is our future. Why are we destroying it?

Yours faithfully, AJP DALTON Kentish Town London NW5

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