Many university teachers are underpaid and time-poor. Most are not full-time or permanent staff – they’re usually casual employees that are paid by the hour. Often university teachers aren’t given enough hours to do their jobs properly. This can have an impact on the quality of your education.
What does this mean for you?
University teachers say they’re faced with two options: work unpaid overtime or take shortcuts. Either way, this has important ramifications for students.
If you’re lecturer or tutor is working unpaid overtime, it’s because they’re devoted to their job and want to make sure students get a decent education.
This is why it’s important to be nice to them. If you believe they’ve made a mistake or given you a bad mark, bring it up politely. Not only is it good manners, but you’re more likely to get your way or, better still, learn something from them.
Assignment marking is one of the areas in which uni teachers are often severely underpaid.
It’s common practice for them to be paid for one hour of marking per student per semester. This is rarely enough, particularly in subjects where there are many assignments.
Sometimes this equates to as little as ten minutes for a single assignment.
This could mean a lack of feedback on your assignments, which could have an significant impact on the quality of your education.
Meaningful feedback is important because it helps you understand what you might be doing wrong and how you could improve in the future.
The problem is that writing constructive and meaningful feedback is quite time consuming.
If you’re unhappy with the amount of feedback you’ve received, politely ask for more in person.
Who are your teachers?
Tutors are often masters or PhD students who are working casual teaching jobs to make ends meet.
Lecturers are often academics who also do research in their fields. Many are full time, but increasingly, lecturers are also casual staff with insecure jobs and limited time to do their job properly.
Many of your university teachers will have no formal qualifications in teaching.
Very little training is required in order for someone to become a lecturer or tutor. The main requirements are that they have a relevant degree and are more qualified than the people they’re teaching.
This is not to say many of them aren’t devoted and good at their jobs. However, it’s important to know that they are a different breed to school teachers.
Why aren’t they being paid well?
In general, universities prioritise research over teaching. A hell of a lot of government funding is attached to research.
It’s also because university rankings are predominantly research-based, creating a further incentive to focus on research rather than teaching.
At many (if not most) universities, teaching comes a poor second.
What can you do about it?
If you’re unhappy with the level of service you are getting, it’s not necessary your tutor’s or lecturers fault (although sometimes it is – particularly if they’re just being lazy).
You can always vent your displeasure through the end of semester student survey. This is important – unis pay attention to this.
If you’re feeling particularly aggrieved that you’re not getting value for money from your HECS fees, chat to the student union and see what they suggest.
When students complain – universities tend to listen. But make sure you persist – don’t let it be brushed off. They care about their reputations.
But also bear in mind that most are good people who will help you as best they can… if you’re polite and respectful.
Find out more
This article covers the issue in a little more depth.