Exams in Durham


Nine grand for tuition, six grand for accommodation, not to mention a good couple of hundred for the extra books and essentials. And all this for what? 24/7 access to a library that’s so full I spend hours wandering aimlessly trying to find a seat, piercing glares cast in my general direction? A few contact hours a week? I’m not impressed, Durham; I’m sure you can do better. As a humanities student I think I’ve drawn a particularly short straw. With a mere nine contact hours a week and only twenty-one weeks of teaching, this amounts to just under fifty quid per lecture. Fifty quid?! That could buy me ten quaddies, and sadly that might be a much better use of my time than fifty-minutes listening to the droning tones of a lecturer reading off the powerpoint.

Lectures in general are certainly not what I expected from a world-renowned university. With low attendance and even lower quality of teaching, I am certainly not getting what I am paying for. With the majority of the lecturers delivering less than inspiring lectures, which cover the material in A level depth, perhaps Durham should be dropping in the league tables? When I applied to Durham I envisaged hurrying to lectures in rooms overlooking the cathedral, the tolling of the bells marking my inevitable lateness. Somewhat fusty but charismatic lecturers would recite Plato passionately to a room of two hundred odd students, who would listen intently. Instead I get the monotonous tones of an inexperienced academic, reading word for word from a very sparse powerpoint, mostly decorated with pictures and size 20 font. And, as interesting as last night’s Klute photos are, they definitely should not usurp the importance of actually paying attention to a lecture.

In the university’s defence, they do have “module surveys” which give a chance for students to leave feedback. So far so good, but here’s the catch: in typical British style, the surveys are conducted at the end of the academic year. What use is this?! Perhaps we need to take a tip from the Japanese and actually carry out improvements during the year. If this was done, I’m sure student satisfaction would instantly increase. If you’re struggling with a particular module, your only chance is to sit it out and hope that you achieve an okay grade at the end. Because there’s no use in complaining to the university- believe me I’ve tried this. In fact, a whole group of us went to the head of department, outraged, as one of our modules was far beyond the standard fit for a second year undergraduate. Did this make a difference? I think you know the answer already. All we got was a five minute “reassuring” talk at the beginning of a lecture, cutting into the rapidly diminishing valuable time before our exam, about how the exam had already been approved by a board of governors and there was nothing they could do. Cue instant panic.

It seems that some lecturers and tutors are so absorbed in their own research, that they forget that their job is primarily to teach us. When we send a desperate email, we expect a reply, and not three weeks later when the content of the email is irrelevant. The worst are those who reply instantly, quoting a section of the module handbook, that, believe it or not, we have already read. We took the time to further enquire about our subject, so please, lecturers, make the effort to provide a response that is not copied and pasted and which endeavours to answer the inquiry. After all, we’re marked down when we avoid the question. And so I beg you, lecturers, academics, and tutors alike, to please remember what we’re paying you for.

Read it on Palatinate here. 


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