1 Aug, 16 | by Iain Brassington
Those of us on the academic side of things will almost certainly recognise the situation: you’re sitting in your school’s Teaching & Learning committee, or a staff/student committee meeting, or something like that, and you hear the complaint from students that they should get more contact time. Academics should spend more time teaching rather than simply doing their own research. After all, they’re paying however-many thousand pounds for their education.
And you’ll’ve heard the standard rebuttals – and maybe even trotted them out yourself: that course fees cover not just teaching costs, but libraries, labs, buildings and so on; that university learning isn’t about hours in a classroom; that teaching and research are intertwined; that students benefit from being taught by the people who’re writing the papers they’re reading. But I wonder if these standard responses miss something important.
Back in April, I was getting companionably smashed with some of my final-year students, and we were talking about what they were going to do when they’d graduated, and about possible careers. One or two were interested in academia, and so a part of the conversation concerned what life’s like from my side of the fence. Predictably, pay was one thing that interested them. I mentioned that I’d made about £80 in total from the books I’ve written, spread over 10 years.
“And what do you get paid for a paper?”
I held back my bitter laughter, and explained how much you get paid for papers, and how much you get for peer-reviewing, and all the rest of it. The students had had no idea that this stuff was expected of us, but not remunerated. Why would they? Indeed, isn’t it insane that we’re not paid?
I think that one gets an insight here into students’ complaints about academics’ priorities being wrong. If they think that we get paid for publishing papers, then of course they’re going to think that we have an incentive to resist extra contact hours – and everything we tell them about extra contact hours being at best academically unnecessary, and likely as not counterproductive, will sound like so much bad faith. After all, of course we’d tell them that a course only needs 30 hours of lectures rather than 60 if we could be earning extra money with those spare 30 hours.
What prompts all this is an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s from 2012, but it’s started popping up in my social media timelines this morning, and Carl posted it on Fear and Loathing in Bioethics last night. It makes a proposal: more…