An article on the University World news website has revealed something that will not shock many academics: students now are doing considerably less work on their degrees than their predecessors in the 1960s!
It is always easy to look back nostalgically and believe that things were better in the past but a study by Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks has shown that today’s students work an average of 27 hours per week on their degree. In contrast, students of the 1960s worked a 40 hour week. The immediate reaction would be to state that students now have modern technology such as computers at their fingertips meaning that the research and writing processes are much quicker and easier. But the decline in working hours began in the 1970s when students didn’t have access to computers.
The authors of the report believe the change is the fault of lecturers and professors who are demanding less from their students. This is for two reasons: lecturers want more time to dedicate to their own research and student evaluations are more positive for easier courses. This research was done in the US where student evaluations of teaching regularly contribute to staff appraisals.
So, are we as lecturers responsible for a change in student priorities by not pushing our students enough? Should we expect our students to spend more time studying even those who are juggling complex paid work and family commitments? Are we dumbing down education to make ourselves seem popular and to give ourselves time for our own research? If you have any thoughts on these controversial questions please reply below!