Lecturers who need a good talking to

KL Pataka has a few strong words for the lazy, the boring, the late and the out-of-touch teacher
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The Independent Online
It is all very well for the universities to set up their own higher education quality council, but why bother? If you want to determine the quality of a product or service, don't ask the suppliers, ask the consumers! I have recently experienced at first hand some appalling standards of teaching on a Master of Business Administration (MBA) course, where one would hope to see better teaching standards.

Some of the MBA lecturers seem to think that providing lecture notes that have been copied verbatim from textbooks and then simply going through them in class is called "teaching". Some of them try to disguise this fact by copying the notes from obscure textbooks or by using an amalgam of such sources. These lecturers don't add any value, and I can study their subjects from home using the same textbooks without attending their lectures. Indeed, I have noticed several classes always have no more than a 50 per cent attendance rate for this very reason.

Many of the lecturers have their own favourite topics within their subject areas. One particular lecturer is so biased towards a handful of such topics that the rest of the subject topics just get glossed over. I had to read up on these in my own time. For less conscientious students, there will be holes in their knowledge.

In one subject I did a guest lecture on the last day of term. Afterwards, one of my fellow students whispered to me, "That was the best lecture we have had in this subject." So much for the lecturer, who finds it very difficult to get his subject across and whose delivery is extremely dry and boring.

In another subject, one of the students actually fell asleep and started snoring. It doesn't take much to make a subject more exciting, but many lecturers don't have a clue about how to do this.

Some of the lecturers who turn up 5-10 minutes late have been faced with only half a class, even less for those who were more than 15 minutes late. Then there are two who didn't turn up at all. I expect to attend at least one lecture per term where a lecturer does not turn up with no notice of cancellation.

Penalties against students who hand in late assignments take the form of losing 1 per cent for every day the assignment is late. How about penalising lecturers who do not return marked assignments on time by deducting 1 per cent of their monthly salary? On many occasions, assignments have not been returned for several months, and in one recent case, after six months.

More often than not, it is difficult to read and to understand all the comments scribbled by lecturers on assignments. On two occasions in the second year, I have had to take the marked assignment to the lecturers and ask them to decipher the comments. The solution, as already used by some lecturers, is simple - use a computer to produce a separate sheet with comments.

Trying to make appointments with some lecturers has proved to be very difficult. One lecturer was recently boasting to me that a student had to leave him 16 telephone messages before he finally got back to him. Nothing to be proud of, especially as he is a lecturer in "Total Quality Management". It is also amazing how some lecturers are always unavailable just before examinations. Last year, one such lecturer disappeared the day after the last lecture and did not reappear until a few days before the exams were due. This was extremely irritating for many students, as they found this particular subject difficult to grasp. Conference trips, research or consultancy seem to be the usual excuses for not being around.

I have much admiration and respect for the good lecturers I have come across during my time in higher education. Unfortunately, I can almost count them on the fingers of one hand. One wonders if there is some truth in the phrase, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach"? Such experiences only provide ammunition to undermine further a profession upon which the future wellbeing of industry, commerce and society depends.

The writer has used a pseudonym.