17th September

students. As our department administrator commented, "Les, you are not doing them any favours by letting it pass when it shouldn't." Time passed and before long the summer resits came around. A package of papers arrived via the internal mail to be marked including the re-sit from the student mentioned here. The paper was unrecognisable - thoughtful, informed, well written - I graded it as a high 2.1 before realising who had written it. When the results were announced a very different student came to see me. Her face bright and animated, she said, "I worked really hard on it and in the end I was really proud of what I did. Showed myself that I can really do this." Her mark was capped at 50 because of the initial failure but considerably better than the bare pass. I had learned something too. I had been wrong to pass it and if the external examiner hasn't insisted on dropping the grade the student would have been denied the opportunity to try again. In many respects re-writing the assessment has proved to be the turning point in her degree and her whole university education. She's no longer a failing student.

Written work at this level cannot be done at the last minute or in a rush. It takes time. Use your teachers: if they will read draft essays then make sure you can get feedback on them ahead of the final submission. If they won't read drafts then go and see them to run through your ideas. Students who get feedback on their work always do better than those who do not. It is one of the few educational laws


that holds true in all cases.

5. Don't be just a consumer

"I need to get the most out of this because I am paying for it," I overhear a first year say to her friend as she dashes to an induction meeting. The marketisation of the university has turned campuses into places of commerce. It corrodes the value of thinking and learning. Money can't buy a thought, or a connection between ideas or things, or a link between a private trouble and a public issue. The idea that education promises a straightforward return on a financial outlay reduces thought to a commodity. The commercialisation of higher education cheapens us all. It is entirely logical that students should start to see themselves as paying customers. I think it is incumbent on staff to make their teaching worth the price it has cost. Students need to be offered an environment for learning and if that's not forthcoming they should demand it to be so. "The more it costs, the less it's worth," students shouted in protest to the introduction of fees and indebtedness. Nevertheless, thinking and intellectual growth cannot be purchased 'off the peg'. It makes universities into places of skills transmission or a kind of financial transaction. The university can foster a place where we can 'think together' about difficult problems and practise what Fichte called the "exercise of critical judgement". This means not being just a consumer and thinking for yourself with others.




27 September