Both before and after Christmas, many students will have experienced more than a few sleepless nights to ensure their assignments are submitted on time, although rumours have it some have taken to using a quick essay writing service just to alleviate the burden of too many deadlines. This may have impacted their festive season celebrations, but this is college and studying is an essential part of the process. With all the pressure to meet a deadline, you might think that all this submitted work would result in an essay or report returned, corrected and graded. Yet many students such as myself were still waiting weeks later to receive essays dating from first term.
This is clearly problematic. Students cannot learn from their mistakes and improve on them for subsequent work if they have not received their initial essays nor any feedback. For first year students who are unsure as to how they ought to approach these essays, very different from anything demanded by the secondary school curriculum, they have no point of reference from which to guide themselves. Admittedly, this is not the case with all lecturers. I have encountered certain lecturers who proactively hand their class’s essays back within a week or two. But this is the exception and would be too much to expect from all lecturers, given that they have other classes to teach and their own research to pursue.
College policy states that assignments should be returned within three weeks and that lecturers must provide an explanation if they do not meet this date.
However, college policy states that assignments should be returned within three weeks and that lecturers must provide an explanation if they do not meet this date. For those who submitted work after Reading Week of Michaelmas term, this would have meant receiving their efforts returned and graded in advance of the Christmas holidays and long before they had to submit their next essay in January. But this policy seems not to be enforced in any tangible way by College administration. For instance, third and fourth year psychology students waited over ten weeks to receive Christmas essays back. In my third year philosophy module, 15 weeks had passed since we handed in our essays after Reading Week without us seeing any sign of them. For law students, the same problem routinely occurs. The problem is not restricted to small or underfunded departments, but is a consistent and pervasive occurrence across many large courses.
Arguably, academics have a duty to serve their students. After all, it is the students who are being consistently charged. The student contribution charge has risen 50 per cent since 2011, from €2000 to €3000. Given that students are forced to make ever greater sacrifices to educate themselves at Trinity, there ought to be a greater onus on academics to deliver a certain standard of teaching and this includes handing back work by an agreed date. Otherwise, if half a year is allowed to elapse, the system of handing in and receiving back one’s work is rendered largely redundant.
If students are to be treated increasingly as commodities, then we can rightly expect to see a return on our investment.
If students are to be treated increasingly as commodities, then we can rightly expect to see a return on our investment. Namely, work returned by a given time with feedback on our progress. All over the working world, people must operate within deadlines. Academics are no different in this regard. Students themselves, of course, often live from one essay deadline to the next. Having paid to study here and having gone to the effort of submitting work, we ought to at least receive our work back by the agreed date of no later than three weeks after submission.
This would provide academics with a framework to work within and give students time to prepare for their next assignments. Otherwise, academics failing to return work for ridiculous periods of time is not romantic or quaint, but simply arrogant and cloistered.