Fudging a digit or two

I’m disappointed to read this BBC News story about some members of the staff at Kingston University (London) telling students to positively skew their answers in the National Student Survey. (Disclaimer: I’m an Associate Lecturer at the Open University.)

“If Kingston comes down the bottom, the bottom line is that nobody is going to want to employ you,” staff warned.

It comes back to the financial consequences of the survey, which creates a pressure – usually within the management – to emphasise the necessity of coming high on the league table.

This is surprising in the sense that I genuinely don’t think the problem is widespread (though see the comments students have added to the article), but it’s just another demonstration that some elements of academia are not improved with the application of market forces. RAE, anyone?

If you’re a student, do what comes naturally – ignore your lecturers and write what you bloody well want 🙂

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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