Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood
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Artist Focus: Rory Hinshelwood

Louisa Hunt - April 25, 2018
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Students scorn School of Life Science

Several disgruntled students have spoken out at their disappointment with the Life Science department with damning comments on how it is run.

These students told The Badger of an array of issues, such as little to no contact with or support from academic advisors, through to final year research projects being poorly organised, and abysmal communication between staff and students. As well as being told that supervisors didn’t seem aware that students had modules, coursework, and exams at the same time as labs.

Some students were also told by their supervisor that they should prioritise their lab work over their paid work and should quit their jobs if they want to be seen as fully committed.

These students requested to remain anonymous for fear of negative consequences within the department.

These claims were outright dismissed by Laurence Pearl, Head of the School of Life Sciences, who said: “In the School of Life Sciences we take all student feedback very seriously. We ensure that any feedback – whether negative and positive – is considered and then acted upon if necessary.

“These comments don’t correlate with the ongoing feedback we receive both from surveys and from our student representatives, and they don’t appear to represent the student experience within the School.”

However, asked by The Badger what was going to happen in the face of these revelations, Prof. Pearl did not address the claims. Instead, he used the opportunity to emphasise his faith in the value of the current procedures.

One of the students spoken to when shown the university’s reply, stated that Prof. Pearl: “ironically dismisses student feedback by arrogantly stating that he listens to all feedback.

“As a student within the school of Life Sciences I have received first hand experience of many of the issues mentioned, and it is really disheartening to know that nothing is going to be done to resolve these issues.”

The same student added: “ This response really highlights to me the misguided priorities of the school, where they would rather defend their own systems than defend the education and treatment of their students.”

Prof. Pearl also said the department had: “carried out a comprehensive review of assessment practice, which involved extensive mapping of all the assessments on offer in the School which has resulted in changes to our methods of assessments.” Yet, a group of students found themselves forced to prepare for a compulsory presentation, worth 25% of a module, scheduled on the day of their dissertation deadline.

Life Science students also spoke of missing out on lectures due to poor timetabling, only to then miss more lectures catching up on the ones they’d missed. Leaving some of the students extremely stressed.

One student commented on this, saying: “At least two people in my presentation group hadn’t slept for 36 hours before their presentations. We should have the next 2 weeks to complete 3 more deadlines, including an important end-of-module lit review, but because our intensive field course arranged for the end of week 8 to week 11, it means the deadlines is due whilst we’re in the middle of a national park, with no internet connection.

“The department’s solution was that we hand these in before we leave. Meaning the week after our dissertation and presentation. I have been working non-stop everyday all day for the entirety of the term, and I am still nowhere near close to satisfying the amount of work I have.

“Meanwhile, I have almost no deadlines when I get back, meaning they were all concentrated in the middle of term. Why not spread them out more?”

Additionally, there was also an issue with students being left with no dissertation supervisor at Sussex after they left to go to another university. From then on their only contact was through email.

One of the students impacted told The Badger: “He [the lecturer], and the university, both knew this was going to happen but, as far as I am aware from the things he told me, the University insisted he supervise at least 4 students. We were not told until we began our projects in late September.

Further adding that: “Having to communicate solely through email and do in a few days what could be done in 15 minutes were we able to directly ask for help and have things explained to us, put us at a serious disadvantage.”

Prof. Pearl took to Twitter to air his grievances against The Badger for publicising the issues in the Life Science department. Calling the testimonials from students in his department “alternative facts” and attacking the papers integrity and its journalists. While refusing to acknowledge the hardship and strain these students have been under.

While the Life Science department achieved respectable results in the most recent NSS survey, some students are not willing to speak out due to fear that staff will use this against them when it comes to their work being graded.

This issue was not addressed in the university’s response to the paper.

The Badger realises the Life Science department is on of the largest on campus and this sample of students small, so would like to hear from students with similar experiences.

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One Comment

  1. Typical reply by Pearl there, Life Sci is one of the worst departments and the bully in-charge sets an example for all of them. If you really want the truth talk to some of the post grads and PhD students. Nobody ever comes forward to complain as we are actively discouraged from doing so, told of “negative impact” on supervisor relationships and the fact that “nothing will really happen”. The few students I know who actually complained were straight away “ratted out” to their bully supervisors and left to fend for themselves. To know what people really think of Pearl go have a look at the bathroom walls (they get painted over every six months).

    Extremely poor and toxic place this Life Sciences Department.

    Reply

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