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Kingston Business and Law lecturers furious at 10-day marking regulation

By Ida Akerstedt Jan 30, 2016
Jonathan Hordle/REX

Lecturers have condemned a move to introduce a 10-day marking deadline of student work as “rushed” and “risky”.

The University and College Union (UCU), which represents most of Kingston’s academic staff, warned that the scheme, which has already been implemented in the faculty of Business and Law, would increase the workload of staff and was introduced without warning.

Dr Andy Higginbottom, chairman of Kingston’s UCU branch said: “This change has been rushed through at an incredible pace. We are going big-bang with no smaller scale trials.

“The policy comes from the new Dean rather than as a recommendation from academic staff. Staff have in general told their union that the strategy is taking a risk with their future at Kingston.”

In a newsletter to staff, the union said staff had been told there would be zero tolerance for anyone who failed to meet the 10-day marking deadline.

The union accused Business and Law Dean Ron Tuninga of showing “little respect for the professional skills of his staff or their rights as employees”, declaring the changes introduced on December 3 2015 as “unreasonable and counter-productive”.

The newsletter also addressed the problem of a three term academic year as the faculty is “stretched and under-resourced” and that the 2016 timetables indicate an increase in teaching hours.

Dr Higginbottom said academic staff are worried about the impact on the students, the impact on the teaching staff and the impact on the financial future of the faculty.

Other changes included enforced peer observations which would be directed to the dean himself who “has shown little respect for the professional skills of his staff or their rights as employees or trade union members,” according to the newsletter.

The union raised questions regarding how these changes will successfully be implemented and fear that if they conform with the new proposals the staff will lose “respect and value” amongst the students.

The newsletter stated that there has been no notice of the changes and no consultation with the UCU.

It is understood that the university is considering moves to introduce the 10-day turnaround to other faculties as well, including Arts and Social Sciences.

It comes as Kingston, along with many universities, struggles to get good scores from third year students in the National Student Survey for feedback.

Erik Mikaelsen, a final year KU Business Administration student, said the quality of the feedback he gets on his work varies depending on the lecturer. He also said that the four-week wait is “not that great”.

Beth Brewster, Associate Professor and Head of Department of Journalism and Publishing, said that there have been talks of these changes being implemented on all faculties, but nothing formal yet.

Brewster raised concern to the suggestion of implementing the 10-day marking turnaround, which she said is “an impossible target” and that the current marking turnaround of 20 days is something they “all struggle with”.

Also, from September 2016, the faculty of Business and Law will launch new three-year degree programmes that will replace previous four-year programmes, which included one year’s work placement.

According to Dean Ron Tuninga, the launch of these new degrees, which will include up to 10 months’ integrated work placements, will “improve graduate opportunity, increase student satisfaction and significantly enhance the reputation” of the faculty.

Dean Tuninga said: “We recognise that there will be a period of transition and we have put together a taskforce team to support staff and ensure minimum disruption.

“The team are working closely with staff to identify and address any areas of concern.”

Dean Tuninga said that the new degree programmes will be “phased in” during the next three years.

Another restructuring is set to take place amongst course administrators, whose numbers will be reduced from 242 to 226, an exercise designed to save the University £800,000.

This means that students with no designated course administrators will be forced to contact a new, centralised team that will be based across Penrhyn Road campus and Kingston Hill campus.

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