A few months ago I came across this article written about Liam Burns, the current head of the National Union of Students, who claimed that lecturers should have teaching qualifications before being able to teach in UK Universities. From the comments on the article it seemed to be a controversial suggestion – there were people saying lecturers are qualified enough and people saying it wouldn’t solve the problem among other insults about Liam himself – however after completing my first year of my degree I can’t fathom why people wouldn’t agree with him.
As the article points out, the 2010 Browne Report suggested this indeed be implemented. And while the government has implemented the part of his report that allowing fees to be almost tripled, it’s conveniently ignored the part of the report that would really make a positive difference to our university system. Not that I believe the fee increase is completely negative – if less people go to university then the value of my degree may increase, which is an incredibly selfish argument especially coming from someone who was in the last intake of £3445 fees. However, I can’t help but fantasise about what a whole implementation of this report would have meant.
There are a few reasons why I believe lecturers should have teaching qualifications, however I’m first going to define what I mean by this. In my idealised vision, lecturers should not have to study for a PGCE on a compulsory basis, however should be provided with training sessions in how to plan lectures and tutorials, as well as how to communicate properly with students.
Now many people may have got this far onto my post and thought, “But I don’t understand the problem?”. Of course, they could be right. Many people graduate with good degrees from our universities each year and obtaining a degree should be down to the student themselves not just the lecturer. However I ask, have you ever sat through an hour long lecture from someone you know is a highly intelligent person, but without learning a thing due to their poor delivery? I unfortunately have, and I’ve only been at university for a year.
It’s not their fault. Unlike Dr Sheldon Cooper in the tv show The Big Bang Theory who once received twitter reviews of one of his lectures, these lecturers have no way of finding out whether their lecture was good. Maybe in their mind reading from an incredibly long handout without looking up or stopping for breath, is good teaching. But more to the point, these lecturers have also never had the training to know how to deliver their lecture effectively.
There’s also the issue of marking and consistency. What one lecturer loves is what another hates and a standardised teacher training might iron this out. Everyone is of course still going to have their own preferences but you’d hope it would make some improvements.
Of course, this may not tackle the problem of academics who simply don’t care about students. However if I knew the career I was aiming for was going to be more focused on teaching, perhaps I’d stay away if this wasn’t what I wanted to do.
With fees set to increase, and with degrees already costing students a fair bit of money anyway, isn’t it within our rights to demand quality? If you pay £3000 for say, a sofa, you wouldn’t want that sofa to be torn or broken and it was you’d be well within your rights to complain about it. I’m not then implying that lecturers are as useless as a sofa because they’re not, but with a teaching qualification they could be that bit better.