As a parent, do you feel your DC's Uni "should" communicate with you?

(395 Posts)
UnexpectedItemInShaggingArea Wed 26-Jun-13 19:20:45

A general question really, I work for a uni and we regularly get complaints from parents that we should have told them stuff.

But, the student is an adult and the contract is between the student and the university, even if parents are paying the fees/living allowance.

In some cases we would be breaking confidentiality by informing parents (e.g. Health issues), in others, I just think it's odd that parents get involved (e.g. student not picked for sports team).

Would appreciate some views/experiences smile

funnyperson Fri 05-Jul-13 23:16:53

The world is changing. University education is an expensive commodity and tutors need to be seen to be doing a good and non discriminatory job of educating undergraduates. The days of giving 2 lectures a term in between undertaking mediocre and irrelevant 'research' whilst playing croquet on the lawn and slagging off the students have gone. Many undergraduates have not only worked very hard to get outstanding grades to get into uni, but are keen to get at least a very good degree and a very good job. The lazy student is a bygone myth. Much more common is the student with very little contact time who has no idea how to undertake self directed study.

LRDLearningDomHome Fri 05-Jul-13 23:24:34

University education has been a commodity for centuries.

Tutors have been held by rules asking them to do a good and non-discriminatory job for donkey's years.

If you didn't notice these rules when you were there, chances either they were working fine, or you were more conscientious or lucky than the laziest or unluckiest students you know now.

I might be cynical about the thread you describe, but I don't think we are reading the same thread! The posts I see aren't describing students as bad - they're merely saying that some students need to take responsibility. Not necessarily because they are idle, but because they are adults whose needs aren't served by treating them as children.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 05-Jul-13 23:26:07

Playing croquet on the lawn... If only!

With respect, I'm not sure you know what you're talking about. Students who take the trouble to find out do find that my door is always open. On the other hand, students who ask for a tutorial to catch up on what they've missed through absence, and then don't turn up or apologise for not turning up, when I've come in especially to make the appointment they asked for, paid for parking when I'm not even paid full time and sat there waiting and waiting, don't ever even know whether my door would have been open for the tutorial they demanded. Although it would.

creamteas Fri 05-Jul-13 23:55:02

Funny person In a research intensive university, teaching is only suppose to part of the jobs. Doing research is a requirement and without it we would be fired, no matter how good we were at teaching.

Second, I'm not sure how much you know about research funding, but it is pretty much done by different forms of competitive tendering (some direct tenders, some open competitions).

So although mediocre and irrelevant research does take place, this is because that is what the funder wanted. And believe me some of them want the most bizarre studies done (like the maths of biscuit dunking etc etc)

Oh and research funding is what keeps most universities going, the money from teaching does not cover the costs!

EduCated Sat 06-Jul-13 02:22:04

I found many of the students did indeed have very little idea of how to study by themselves. They also had very little interest in finding out and were most indignant when it was suggested that they might want to find out or give it a go. All my friends cared about was knowing what would be in the exam and wanted to be spoonfed.

exoticfruits Sat 06-Jul-13 07:21:40

Lazy students are not a myth. How can you justify starting university and then not turning up for lectures? You would think that at the very start they would be keen.
I am convinced that many are just channelled that way because it is 'the next thing to do' and their parents expect it and all their friends are doing it. Very few have sat down and thought 'actually why am I going?' and 'what are the alternatives?'
My friend's DD was asked by the school why she wasn't going, they hadn't had anyone with her exam results who hadn't gone. She is doing very well now without it.
I'm sure that EduCated is right. The education system is geared to the exams and to get a good result you need to do a, b and c- there doesn't appear to be a wide reading around the subject.
I find parents bribery for exam results odd at that age. By all means have a celebration afterwards but if they don't want to do well for their own sake I can't see the point of going on with more study. I also can't see the point if the parent has had to do them a revision timetable and supervise it.
My DSs have both had courses that involve hours of work in labs which I think is easier than just time to yourself. Maybe they should do more research into how their course is structured and whether it suits them.

I don't think it has anything to do with it being a commodity and the cost to the parent. At 18yrs old the DC simply has to start taking responsibility for themselves- especially if the parent had done it all up to that point. You can't have a 21yr old (or older) going on to the job market where tutors and parents are the responsible ones dealing with the problems.

Do you really want to be treated by a new doctor whose parents have had to have regular feedback from the university to check up? hmm

Jux Sat 06-Jul-13 12:34:00

Funnyperson, I really don't recognise your description at all. I graduated in 97, grants had been all but abolished by then, loans had been introduced etc.

My lecturers gave 3 lectures a week that I knew about so probably more, plus seminars, plus tutorials, plus Office Hours when they were officially available to undergrads (though you could always collar one in a corridor, or knock on their door - the only time a student was turned away was if they were already in a meeting).

I thought getting an essay back in 3 weeks was a pretty good turnover, though of course wanted my essays back much more quickly! Sometimes essays were returned earlier, too - the buzz would get round really fast in those cases.

Lecturers (with one exception) were kind, courteous, helpful and knowledgeable, endlessly patient. We were lucky enough to have several who were world experts in their fields, and they were just as good with students as the ones who weren't. Except for the one, they seemed to enjoy being with students, were energised by them and their freshness. My tutor said he loved teaching, and I would guess that most of the others did too. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that they cared about their students.

I wasn't at an exceptional Uni, either. It wasn't one of those transformed from a Polytechnic, but it was a pretty ordinary one. I don't believe for a moment that it's lecturers were unusual in their attitude, either.

exoticfruits Sat 06-Jul-13 14:38:46

I think that now that so many more are going to university the system isn't understood - some parents seem to expect a boarding school for adults.

funnyperson Sat 06-Jul-13 15:53:51

I'm only slagging off the lecturers because some of the lecturers on this thread are slagging off the students.
My own lecturers and tutors were fab when I was at uni, and they did nobel prize winning research and looked after and mentored the students till long after qualifying- an example which we 'students' try and follow to this day for our own students and trainees, though the nobel prize winning research eludes- one was part of a family which was there for one through thick and thin.
Comments on this thread from tutors who clearly think themselves impeccable, yet talk about students with 'an endless stream of family crises' in disbelieving terms, or are convinced that students dont turn up to lectures because they are lazy (nothing to do with what the student might be doing, or indeed the quality of the lecturer), and put out their long working hours as if these are in some way unique. Or researchers who use their research to excuse less time spent tutoring, and as if there are no researchers who do it just because it is often seen to be convenient to do a research year and have a baby. All this I find very polarised on this thread.
And yes, if a medical student is in serious trouble, not only does the general medical council get involved but so do the next of kin.

funnyperson Sat 06-Jul-13 15:54:42

Sorry- one still is part of that family. No 'was' about it.

LRDLearningDomHome Sat 06-Jul-13 16:23:51

No, they're not, funny.

Saying that some students are less than perfect, some are lazy, some don't take responsibility, is not 'slagging off'.

I was a problem student myself. It wasn't helpful for people to respond with 'oooh, that's awful, let us ring your parents and have them come tuck you up in bed'. Sometimes you need proper responses, not an endless stream of meaningless sympathy or treating like a child.

I really don't get this bit, either: 'Or researchers who use their research to excuse less time spent tutoring, and as if there are no researchers who do it just because it is often seen to be convenient to do a research year and have a baby.'

Erm ... yes, research usually does mean less of a heavily tutorial load.

Yes, sometimes people take maternity leave or paternity leave.

What, you think just because we're talking about students, somehow these researchers should not just do their paid job, but also spend their spare time running around after their students?

You've still not explained how your more hands-on approach would work better than anything else, anyway.

guineapiglet Sat 06-Jul-13 18:46:10

If you go back to the original post, it seem like a simple enough question, really, - do you expect Universities to communicate with you about your 'child' - an 'adult' legally - and, if so, what about... (I found the comment about a student not being picked for a team for example, unbelievable). - what is legally permissable in terms of confidentiality and health issues is really set in stone. If you don't expect them to, because your child is in effect an adult now and expected to deal with issues and life away from home, what do you expect the Universities to provide in terms of support/advice etc bearing in mind they are not in loco parentis.

Universities are different beasts now, highly competitive and visible, having to do a critical combination of research to bring vital monies in, in addition to being under student ( the consumer) scrutiny to provide cutting edge teaching and support. Students are different beasts as well - not really independent in terms of finances, ( apart from the lucky few) - so actually not that 'adult' in terms of making their way in the world, they are still dependents.

We all have to live, work, study and exist in this brave new world - as I said upthread, Universities received up to 90% funding from Central Government even as recently as 15- 20 years ago, now they are really up against it. Providing a nurturing student experience, academically, professionally and emotionally is absolutely paramount.

funnyperson Sun 07-Jul-13 03:47:43

Universities are not in loco parentis the way schools are. However neither can the students be regarded in the same way as adult employees can. Our local council regards young people under the age of 25 in full time education who come home for the holidays as dependents on their parents/carers. The new education legislation goes up to the age of 25 years for those needing extra support in an educational setting, and parents are party to education plans for provision of support. So if a student has, for example, a longstanding condition such as diabetes, provision for support should continue on from school, and the extent to which parents are involved on school leaving needs to be clarified with the new legislation, as previously parents would have automatically been in the loop.

If a student has a physical or mental health issues, the tutor would not be expected to deal with it, the student would be encouraged to see their GP. However university practices have thousands of temporarily registered students and dont always have the same approach as the previous family doctor at home might. Medical students need to demonstrate that they look after their health by attending GP or hospital appointments. It could be useful to ask all students to show that they attend appointments in their annual or whatever tutor meeting. For those that are admitted to hospital as emergencies, hospitals would inform the next of kin (with consent, and if the person was moribund then anyway).

funnyperson Sun 07-Jul-13 03:55:16

Good researchers dont necessarily make good lecturers, good lecturers dont necessarily make good tutors. Good tutors should not only teach but mentor. The better universities these days (for example Imperial College, or University college in London ) insist that those who teach or tutor students have teaching/tutoring training. At medical schools, all tutors have to demonstrate that they have been trained to teach and to mentor. All students are asked to give anonymised feedback not only on individual lecturers but on individual lectures, and that feedback is compared with other lecturers/tutors. Medical students see their allocated tutor at least termly, often weekly. I dont see why these standards shouldn't apply to all universities for all subjects. I think attendance with the tutor could be part of the core course requirements for progression.

funnyperson Sun 07-Jul-13 04:04:17

I am not in favour of parents being involved at all in a students university life by the university as a routine. University is the springboard to independence. I agree with those parents upthread who say that part of good parenting is about preparing the young to fly.

But university is just that- the spring board. Expecting 18 year or even 19 year olds fresh from school to be fully independent can be unrealistic. Serious problems will occur for some students, and though many students will anyway tell their parents, I think there needs to be a robust and clear system for the university involving the family or next of kin when there are serious academic concerns about possible lack of degree progression at a stage when it possible to salvage the situation, and after the student has been given a chance to remedy the problem independently.

LRDLearningKnigaBook Sun 07-Jul-13 10:25:23

I didn't know any universities didn't insist you had to have training before you could teach. confused I take your word for it that they don't, though.

We do anonymised feedback here, too.

I just don't follow why you think this stuff isn't already happening, or why it's incompatible with what the tutors and lecturers on this thread have been saying. They clearly know what they're talking about, and you're talking as if you're telling them something revolutionary. confused

No-one - to my reading - is expecting an 18 year old to be fully independent. But legally they have to be treated as adults and you can't just ring up mum and dad. Reading this thread I am realizing there are more reasons why that's a bad idea than I knew. I really didn't read it as lecturers 'slagging off' their students. They were just explaining the issues.

Personally, I think students need to be encouraged far more - by their parents - to get help when they need it. I think that's true of work as well. We don't teach people with serious problems to ask for help enough.

creamteas Sun 07-Jul-13 16:16:02

Funny actually it is the other way round! The move to have trained and qualified staff teaching and tutoring emerged from ex-polys! The RG unis were much later in picking this up.

At my uni, all students have a scheduled meeting with their tutors each term. But it doesn't mean that they attend. It used to be that this was the only way to get the results of exams, so we would see everyone. Now the results are published on the student portals (which is what the students, not the staff, asked for) and the numbers of students coming to see us have dropped dramatically.

It is a core requirement, but the only way to really enforce this would be to fail students who didn't turn up. Would you want this to happen? I wouldn't.....

funnyperson Sun 07-Jul-13 20:10:02

Agree, not revolutionary, but not happening everywhere. Nothing to do with poly or ex poly btw.

guineapiglet Sun 07-Jul-13 20:21:27

Yes - its the inconsistency in approach which is the problem. I have worked in 3 RG Unis and the OU - and the latter was waaaaaaaaaay better at dealing with student support issues ( even though 99% of the work was non face to face - issues were dealt with 'remotely' so to speak.

There is some truth ( backed up by research! ) in the fact that ex Polys were much better geared up for teaching/training/links with local business/sandwich courses, so that the student 'experience' was much more nuturing and supportive (back in the 90s) and the dinosaur type RG Unis ( and non RG for that matter) were much slower to adapt new practices - there are several large northern Unis where the Polys in the same City were way more student and user friendly, and, to my knowledge and experience ( and from student service/satisfaction studies). The 'older' Universities had some catching up to do, being primarily research focussed. Things are a bit more level playing field now, but the OU still stands above all for student satisfaction - the fact that it is a distance learning institution notwithstanding!

LRDLearningKnigaBook Sun 07-Jul-13 20:48:16

Fair enough, I can understand you being fed up with the fact that some places could be better.

Student satisfaction is a funny one, isn't it? OU students tend to have been out to work, so have a different attitude from your average 18 year old.

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