Complaints from first year students over university standards of teaching have led some of the UK’s leading independent schools to host lessons for university lecturers in how to teach today’s youths.
The issue of lecturing standards was raised at the annual Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference (HMC) in South Wales last Sunday, attended by representatives from 250 of Britain’s most selective private schools.
The HMC argue that university teaching methods are severely outdated, a strong criticism given that some undergraduate students can pay up to £9,000 a year in tuition, with the figure exceeding £20,000 a year for some international students at The University of Edinburgh.
Christ Ramsey, Headmaster of the King’s School, Chester and chairman of a joint universities sub-committee told The Independent last week: “We’re looking forward to doing some activities with university lecturers to make sure they understand teenagers and how to get the best out of them.
“Some universities are doing some fantastic work and really being self-critical of their teaching,” Ramsey added.
However, he said he felt that some universities were offering “a diet of links and essays of the kind they would have done 20 years ago. “Teaching has developed hugely in all schools since then,” he added.
Critics of the move have accused the HMC of trying to get universities to “spoon-feed” their students, a criticism often directed towards teaching in HMC prep schools such as Eton College and Harrow School.
However, the HMC’s claims are echoed amongst some The University of Edinburgh’s students. Iqbal Fatkhi, a fourth year Law and International Relations student, told The Student that he found his lectures “detached, uninterested, routine and rehearsed”.
“Tutorials are good though, for me at least, and that’s broadly speaking,” he added. “There’s like one or two good lecturers.”
Sana Sehr Rasool, a fourth year Law and Psychology student, voiced similar sentiments: “I think it depends on the professor, when the professor is good then the lectures are good.”
The University of Edinburgh’s academic support website states that its teaching programme consists of “a mixture of independent study, lectures, tutorials and other methods.”
It goes on to explain why independent study is a vital part of the curriculum: “Learning at university will often be very different from school or college. You will need to get used to the different types of studying and the demands made of you as your programme progresses.”
“You’ll have to be proactive, manage your own time and develop your independent learning skills.”
The University of Edinburgh has not stated whether it plans to take part in the HMC’s programmes.