The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Some staff ‘do not think that students are important’, says VC

Dame Nancy Rothwell has argued that the University of Manchester’s poor performance in league tables measuring student satisfaction is because some staff do not care about students

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The University of Manchester’s poor performance in league tables measuring student satisfaction is mainly because “a small proportion of staff do not think that students are important”, according to Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell.

The Vice Chancellor went on to say that any staff “who don’t like students should not be here, because students are fundamental to this university”.

Nancy Rothwell made her comments at a meeting with students in the Student’s Union building last week. She was responding to a league table published earlier this year by the NSS (National Student Survey) which showed that Manchester ranked as the worst university in the Russell Group when it came to student satisfaction.

“There are instances where teaching skills are poor,” she acknowledged. “I heard about one in a school this week. A student told me that they had complained [about a member of staff] and I spoke to the head of school and they said that they had spoken to the member of staff and that, while they wanted to do better, they didn’t seem capable of doing so. I said that if that’s the case he’s got to go on training or you have to write it up as a formal warning.”

Numerous students were keen to use the meeting to air their grievances about the standard of teaching at the university.

Charles Bailey, a 3rd year PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) student at Manchester, stated that forty of his fellow students had made a complaint about a member of staff in the department, only to have it rebuffed by the school.

“The response was that this was the first complaint against him in his 5 years at the university and nothing has been done,” he said.

Robyn Forsythe, a 3rd year biology student, had a similar story to tell.

“I tried to complain about a member of staff at my school last year, and the only way I could do it was by going the head of school who I knew was really good friends with the person I wanted to complain about so I couldn’t do it,” she said.

In response, Dame Nancy Rothwell said that the attempt to ignore so many complaints from students was unacceptable, and she urged students to go through their course reps if they wished to make a complaint in the future.

The Vice Chancellor went on to say that, in an effort to improve the student experience, the university was hiring more staff and decreasing the number of students. She also said that steps were being taken to improve feedback given to students; with the Vice President for Teaching, Learning and Students, Professor Clive Agnew, currently looking to ensure that there is uniformity in the marking schemes at Manchester, so that the feedback given to students is more helpful.

When asked to respond to Dame Nancy’s comments by The Mancunion, Dr Max Jones, senior lecturer in modern history, said that he “strongly supported the President’s commitment to the improvement of the student experience at Manchester.”

The University of Manchester tends to do very well when universities are ranked according to research (the institution sits third behind Oxford, 1st, and Cambridge, 2nd, in a table measuring research power published this year), but performs poorly when ranked according to student satisfaction. The NSS table this year placed Manchester at number 41 in the UK.