The picture below is a genuine advertisement that appeared in Brunel University’s student newspaper, Le Nurb, this month. It was sponsored by the Union of Brunel Students, which is campaigning to replace traditional lectures with school-style lessons for undergraduates.
“University is emphatically not about spoon-feeding and hand-holding through courses,” said Professor Anthony Grayling in a Guardian column some time ago.
The professor is, naturally, correct. Higher education is about self-directed learning where you read up on your topic in your own time, for your own intellectual enrichment. Being spoon-fed titbits in order to pass your exams merely reduces learning to lazy parroting, as recent generations are finding out to their cost.
“Students in a handout culture may fail to learn to take responsibility for their own learning,” added Dr David Hardman of London Metropolitan University. “In fact, there is now plenty of evidence that self-discipline is a major factor in student performance.”
Key to Dr Hardman’s point is “self-discipline”. Employers value graduates who can think for themselves and don’t need to have their hands held. Academic training teaches undergraduates how to reason through a problem and how to overcome it without being completely dependent on others. Best’s scheme will devalue Brunel degrees and make Brunel graduates less desirable to employers.
Ominously, Best’s scheme may also have implications for recent Brunel graduates whose existing qualifications may be called into question by his proposed scheme.
More importantly, from the intellectual point of view, dumbing lectures down into lessons degrades the learning experience for those who enjoy learning for its own sake. If Best was at all serious about improving the quality of learning, he would campaign for more seminars and other forms of guided learning. Instead he tries to drag everyone down to his level.
“Students learn a lot through working with their peers and on their own,” opines Paul Ramsden, visiting professor at the University of London’s Institute of Education, in the Times Higher Educational Supplement. “They see conventional lectures as far less useful than interactive ones, in which lecturers share their enthusiasm for their subject and motivate them to find out more for themselves.”
Introducing school-style lessons into universities will reinforce the “patronising culture that defines undergraduates as immature beings who cannot look out for themselves,” in Ramsden’s words. Best’s view of learning is childish and immature compared to the professional academics with decades of experience in the field. It is a shame that he is in a position of responsibility where he can negatively affect Brunel’s 17,000 students.
In the words of Prof Grayling: “Doing less for oneself at university is not to get a better deal; it is to get a worse deal. That’s going to be hard for some to grasp.”
The West Londoner attempted to contact Best prior to publication numerous times during office hours without success.
Students at Brunel University could soon face a critical housing shortage if the council implements essential planning permission on houses in multiple occupation.
Since 2006 there have been over 400 complaints about HMOs in the Hillingdon area, with issues concerning anti-social behaviour and parking problems.
Currently, landlords can rent out a student house with up to six occupants without planning permission. If the council agree on implementing an Article 4 direction, which allows them to override the law, landlords will need to apply for planning permission for more than three occupants.
The council will also discuss the option of putting a limit on the amount of student properties which can be rented out in an area.
Locals claim there is still an ‘us’ and ‘them’ feeling between students and local residents, despite the council setting up a “Brunel University Liaison” group five years ago for local residents to meet and discuss any problems they have with Brunel students.
The cost of implementing such a direction will cost £6,000 alone for publicity and public notes, with ongoing council costs of £20,000 a year.
Hillingdon council will meet to discuss this issue and propose a conclusion on Thursday 3rd November.
A stabbing and a fire occurred within an hour of each other at Brunel University this evening.
Witnesses reported a man who claimed to have been stabbed near to Cleveland Road, which runs through the middle of the university’s campus in Uxbridge.
Edward Whitaker, a Brunel University student, saw the aftermath.
“Me and Jane were walking past the arts centre,” he says, “and saw some guys having a fight. Then one of them started running towards the Hamilton Centre shouting ‘I’ve been knifed’ and holding his side!”
Police were called at about 8.30pm, arriving on the scene in force. A spokesman described the victim’s injuries as a “slash wound to the body” whilst other eyewitnesses commented how “calm” he was. He was taken to a West London hospital with what police described as “non life-threatening” injuries.
University officials denied that an incident had taken place on campus, whilst police were seen apparently removing bags of evidence from the scene. At the time of writing the police could not confirm whether an arrest had been made.
About an hour after the stabbing, fire alarms in the university’s Heinz Wolff building went off. Campus security evacuated the building just before four fire engines from Hillingdon and Hayes fire stations arrived.
Details about the cause of the fire had not been released at the time of writing but university sources confirmed that works were being carried out on underground tunnels carrying electricity, gas and water supplies to the building. An eyewitness claimed to have seen evidence of a fire from the outside of the building.
No smoke or flames were visible from outside, although a small number of firefighters entered the building with a hose.
editor’s update 2nd Nov: A university source who does not wish to be identified confirms that the fire started because of a light fitting. We are seeking an official statement from the university.
A Brunel University law student has been charged with committing fraud by conspiracy in order to sit an exam for another person.
Dev Aditya, 19, who gave his address as halls in Kingston Lane, was charged last week with the offence. He is accused of impersonating a fellow student in an English exam held on November 12th last year in order to gain a pass for the other person.
His Facebook page lists his address as Corringham Road, Golders Green; however, his bail conditions require him to surrender his passport. The law student also lists his religion as “liberal Hindu” on his page.
Aditya pleaded not guilty and will be tried at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday September 7th.
editor’s note dated 7th September 2011: we were misinformed about the details of today’s hearing. Aditya’s court appearance today is for a committal hearing, which is where the court decide whether there is sufficient evidence to try him in Crown court. If there is not, he will be discharged from court.