In the traditional Sussex spirit of re-defining ordinary words, I can proudly announce that I had my first in-person assessment on Friday morning – a day earlier than m’colleagues because the university grudgingly agreed not to force Jewish students to sit exams on Shabbat, now there’s diversity for you – and I’ve given myself a couple of days’ respite to put together a bit of an update.
Study skills at Sussex
The School of Global Studies has helpfully produced some ‘exam preparation tips’ which they put online. These include:
Another piece of advice appears to misunderstand that crucial line that divides an exam from a cocktail party:
…while another really leaves me wondering whether the academic genius of my tutors is worth £3,000 per year. I mean, did I really need reminding:
And what are these study skills for?
Essay length last year: 2,000 words
Essay length this year: 1,500 words
Exam length last year: 2 hours
Exam length this year: 1 hour 30 minutes
(‘In-person assessment’, shurely? -Ed.)
Both of my International Relations modules have had their assessments reduced by a quarter. The word on the street is that this is due to University funding cuts – an inevitable consequence of tuition fees tripling, right? – which mean that the department can no longer afford to mark the previous volume of essays and in-person assessment scripts, associate tutors being paid by the hour “based on the University’s single pay spine.”
But I’m sure that cost-cutting can’t be the reason the University is reducing the quality of our education.
Pushing the brown envelope
One of the courses that I’m most looking forward to next year is Political Corruption. The convenor is an expert in the field, who last year organised a talk by the Director of Transparency International (“I’m not an academic of corruption. I’m a practitioner”).
My housemate is also keen to get a place on the course but is unfortunately on a waiting list. So what are we going to do?
Carbon copy paper ɹǝdɐd ʎdoɔ uoqɹɐɔ
Last week, the BBC ran a feature called, “Inside the UK’s last carbon paper factory.”
Its synopsis said: “A succession of inventions has rendered carbon paper all but obsolete. BBC News went to meet production director Mervyn Jones to find out how the company has remained in business.”
Well, I know how it’s remained in business. Sussex University – at the paper-cutting edge of higher education – must surely be one of the largest consumers of carbon paper in Britain, with every student using dozens of sheets a year for no obvious reason other than to provide business for the Brighton City Council Refuse Department.
Not that the Refuse Department is doing very well; they’ve not collected any recycling from my street for over four weeks, and their website helpfully says:
“We are unable to deal with individual reports of missed collections, either online or by telephone.”
How ridiculous: I don’t pay my council tax…
but if I did, that’s exactly the sort of thing that would make me severely unimpressed.
Though admittedly, the Council may be frying bigger fish such as the “wormhole or vortex to another dimension that has opened on Montreal Road.”
What a breakthrough
Relatively frequently, IT Services proudly post some news story about how they’ve made a microscopic improvement to their nevertheless dreadful network. But if they’re going to do propaganda, they should at least do it right…
The uni’s not for turning
In the traditional Sussex spirit of re-defining ordinary words, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Claire Mackie, the person responsible for renaming ‘Monday’ as ‘Thursday’, has reached another momentous decision.
The 2011-12 Assessment Handbook required that academic departments return marked essays to students “within 15 working days (3 weeks).”
However, in the draft handbook for 2012-13 – conveniently released six months into the academic year it was supposed to cover – Mackie has replaced this provision with “15 term time working days,” which given the random nature of Sussex’s dates, with Easter holidays in May and odd weeks off in April, now means something quite different and charmingly allows the university to be really, painfully slow at providing services to students. Brill!
Pasties cause Tories trouble again
Remember the Great Pastyshambles of 2012? Well, the trouble’s not over yet.
Conservative Sussex PCC Katy Bourne, no doubt acutely embarassed after being criticsed by MPs last week for failing to comply with legal transparency requirements, and – worse – being criticised by this blog for being useless and appointing her mates to high-paid jobs, has got her own back by taking the momentous decision… to ban police detainees from being served pasties at mealtimes.
According to the West Sussex County Times (readership: -4), “After watching first-hand a detainee screaming and shouting because he had not been given a pasty, Ms Bourne stopped the ‘luxury’ item because ‘that’s not the right of a detainee’.” A spokesperson for the West Cornwall Pasty Company said, “This paper is a disgrace to the word ‘west’.”
The precise question of detainees’ human right to a crisp, golden pastry crust is yet to be determined conclusively, when a test case reaches Strasbourg judges next year.
Meanwhile, Katy Bourne – who bought her elected position with £20,000 of her own money and is presumably now living on Ginsters pasties in abject poverty – can add the Pastyban™ to her list of the 12 decisions she has taken in the last six months. Unlucky for some!