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5:47pm on Wednesday, 19th October, 2011:

A-type Students


Every year, the lecturers at Essex University are each allocated a bunch of first-year students whom they have to meet individually. The purpose of the meetings is "to support new students and ensure some initial contact with academic staff outside the formal lecture and laboratory classes". Yes, but within the formal meeting-with-an-academic context instead.

All of these that I've ever done have been worthless. The students regard it as a box-ticking exercise, which, given that the guidelines I was given come with a checklist, indeed it is. If any of them do have the slightest problem, all that will happen is they'll be sent in the direction of the professionals at Student Support. I'm meeting these students once, then I'll never see them ever again.

Of course, I'd definitely see them again if they attended my lectures. Only, they won't attend my lectures. None of the students I meet this way ever attend my lectures. The way they're allocated is like this: all the lecturers in the Department School are arranged in alphabetical order by surname; all the students are arranged in alphabetical order by surname; each lecturer has an allocation number of students they have to meet, based on that lecturer's workload; they get this number of students off the list, following on from where the previous lecturer's allocation ended.

I am at the top of the lecturer list alphabetically. I have four students I have to meet, so these are the ones whose names are at the start of the alphabet. Such students are mainly from overseas, because names start with A more often in Africa and the Middle East than they do in the UK. Overseas students are here to do proper degrees such as Computer Science, Electronics and Telecommunications. They're not here to do wishy-washy aspirational degrees such as Computer Games. Of the 20 students whose names begin with A, only one is registered to do Computer Games. Therefore, my chances of having even a single games student among my four first-year interviewees is basically one in five.

Last year, because they ordered lecturers' names slightly differently, I did actually get a games student. Unfortunately, she switched to straight Computer Science at the end of the year. Maybe it's therefore a good thing that I don't have any games students to meet this year, so I don't put them off? Then again, the fact that people on the games degree don't get taught anything games-specific during their entire first year may have something to do with it, too.

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).