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David Willetts wants students to rate their lecturers and courses on a website for university applicants

WILLETTS DAVID NW Shadow Universities Secretary David Willetts wants to see a government-sponsored website which will enable current students to help inform prospective students making decisions about university applications.

He will reveal his plans at a CBI conference today, with the media hitting on the proposal to allow students to rate their lecturers. As today's Times reports:

"David Willetts, the Shadow Universities Secretary, is working with Microsoft on a website that would give salary information for graduates from each degree course and record students’ views of their experience of higher education... The proposed website, which has been under development for some months, would build on the National Student Survey, which asks final-year undergraduates to rate the quality of teaching on their course.

"The online format would allow individual students to give their views of teaching standards and the quality of feedback on their work... The proposed website would also provide more detailed information than universities currently publish on graduate employment rates and salary levels. At present, information is released only nationally for different subjects, or for whole universities."

Unofficial existing sites like ratemyprofessors.com have incurred the wrath of academics and their unions for the personal nature of the areas covered and comments posted, but Mr Willetts remains of the view that the collective wisdom should nonetheless be harnessed to help those applying to university. In respect of those unofficial ratings websites, he says:

“Some of the posts can be quite unpleasant and intrusive, but my view is that we need more places for this kind of information in a way that is properly monitored.”

The Times also reports that whilst refusing to commit a future Conservative Government to high tuition fees, the party would want to link any increases to value for money: 

"Mr Willetts said that there should be contracts between universities and their students, setting out teaching hours as well as students’ responsibilities. Some already have such arrangements, guaranteeing regular contact with lecturers and setting out the maximum size of teaching groups. A Conservative government would not set targets for teaching hours, Mr Willetts said. But universities should spell out the nature of tuition on each course and guarantee regular access to individual guidance from academics, even if lectures were delivered in large groups or online."

Jonathan Isaby

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