Have Your Say
We want to make sure that you have a great experience at the University of Edinburgh. Through our 'Have Your Say' suggestion box, you can tell us how we can make your experience better: what’s working well and how we can improve.
All of your suggestions will be taken into consideration, with responses and improvements being posted periodically below.
Please do not use this form in an emergency as it is not checked outside working hours. Please contact our trained support staff on 0131 650 2257 or visit edin.ac/crisis-support.
Responses to your comments and suggestions
Below you will find answers to the suggestions we have received via the Have Your Say suggestion box. We have taken all of the recently submitted questions, split these into themes, and collated answers for the most pressing topics.
Teaching and Learning
My course (Philosophy of Science) indicates that no prior knowledge is required before taking the course, but then course work load was too much without this knowledge.
(NEW June 2021)
We are careful to assess and note prerequisite knowledge where relevant. In this case, the Philosophy of Science course defines all philosophical concepts used from scratch, and describes how to construct philosophical arguments from scratch. The nature of the material is made explicit in the first few classes, with respect to how examples are used etc. In particular, there is no hidden technical content later in the course, so that any student who attends the first few lectures is aware of the nature of the material to be covered in the course before committing to it, and is able to withdraw from the course if they feel that it does not match their expectation. The material does include many real and varied examples from science, but these are explained from scratch, assuming no background mathematical or scientific knowledge. The lecturer makes explicit, and repeatedly reminds students, that the course is not a science course, and that in writing papers and answering exam questions, they should appeal to whatever examples they understand; they do not need to refer to the many examples that are discussed and explained in class. No essay or exam question is tied to any specific example from science.
Online exams and the 48hour timeframe
Both online exam formats are replacements for the short format exam hall assessments and are meant to be completed in the standard 2-3 hours. The 48 hour timeline was originally agreed as we had very little time to research suitable options and we were all moving rapidly into full lockdown across the globe will limited understanding of potential technical issues associated with running online exams at scale. So the 48 hour assessment was a like-for-like replacement, but the additional time was to recognise key mitigating factors: different timezones; scheduled learning adjustments; possible technical issues; and the desire to reassure students during a period of sudden and radical change.
Based on feedback received from the May diet, there were fewer technical issues than expected and there was general recognition that the diet passed relatively smoothly and - having had time to review the approach to digital delivery - the University felt it would be both safe and appropriate to adjust the longer-form delivery to a 24hr format. This also constitutes a move to a duration more consistently adopted across the sector. The 24 hour option is primarily offered as an alternative to the 2/3 hour option where the extra time allows for students who are in different time zones and/or may have issues with internet speed or data uploads. It is still expected that the time taken by candidates to complete the assessment should be broadly similar to the short format time, which is the way in which the assessments are being designed by the Course Organisers. Schools are encouraged to consider alternative forms of assessments in the event of any significant change to the assessment criteria.
It feels like there is an inadequate marking system in the School of Engineering
(NEW June 2021)
The School of Engineering works hard to improve the marking systems, checks and balances, and feedback to the students, to enhance the student experience and pedagogy, and to meet both University and Accreditation requirements.
Coursework in most of our courses, including Ewireless and project thesis, each follow a detailed rubric marked according to the University Common Marking Scheme. The rubric and marking guidelines provide an auditable and justifiable assessment process, in line with the learning outcomes of the courses, and are regularly revised. A breakdown of these marks can be made available to students. In the case of project dissertations, these are marked by two independent examiners who agree on a final mark. If examiners substantially disagree, a third marker is introduced.
The School takes complaints very seriously and has an official complaints process as detailed on the ETO Hub. As an example, in response to student concerns in the academic year (AY) 2018/2019, assessment on Engineering Software 3 was substantially revised, and this change received positive student feedback. A marking rubric was designed and introduced by the academic teaching team with input from tutors and demonstrators involved in the course delivery, with a process to enhance consistency of assessment amongst different markers.
The School will continue to improve staff training to ensure justification for marks is communicated more precisely, against the marking guidelines, and without using phrases that could easily be misinterpreted. We continue to review and improve all aspects of coursework and assessment each year. Although it is disappointing to hear the view that some students do not take their studies from the School of Engineering seriously, there is much evidence to the contrary, as evidenced through the quality of the work submitted, and through CEQs and mid-semester course feedback.
Quality of online learning and issues with online recording equipment
The University provides an extensive programme of training and support to colleagues who teach using computers and equipment for them to use at home is available for loan if they need it. It may be that individual teachers are unaware that you cannot hear or understand what they are saying, so contacting them directly is a good way to give this feedback on your learning experience and encourage them to ask their local IT support for a better microphone.
Lack of in-person classes
We are working hard to maximise the amount of on campus teaching we can deliver in semester 2 however are bound by restrictions on space and staff availability. We acknowledge that this isn’t the experience that students had expected and are sympathetic to the concerns that are being brought forward. We will continue to respond to guidance that the University issues in consultation with the Scottish government.
More live lectures
(NEW June 2021)
Schools make the decision to provide asynchronously-delivered lecture recordings for a number of reasons. Prime among these was the commitment of the University to provide a consistent experience to all students no matter where in the world/in which timezone they were based. To complement these, some Schools also arrange for live Q&A sessions to accompany each lecture series, live laboratory workshops, and live tutorials.
In some areas, where synchronous lecture content was provided, student attendance was poor, and this was therefore not pursued. Additionally, many of staff have caring and/or home-schooling responsibilities that have affected their availability to provide synchronous teaching during normal working hours.
Staff are sympathetic to students’ issues around lack of routine and associated demotivation, and we very much look forward to seeing students live and in-person in due course.
Health and wellbeing
In common with other UK universities, we have seen a significant increase in the volume of students disclosing mental health problems and coming forward for support. This has put pressure on University services but we have continued to invest significantly in this area, working hard both to maintain a strong focus on promoting positive student mental wellbeing, as well as increasing and expanding the range of support we can offer when things are not going well. The University’s Counselling and Disability Services will be brought together with the existing NHS medical practice and University pharmacy for the first time in a fully accessible building that has been purposefully designed to promote positive mental health. Most recently, the University has agreed to a further investment of £2 million over the next 3 years to expand existing services (such as counselling) and introduce new ones (such as drop in support services for students who are struggling.) Many people across the University may be involved in supporting students with mental health issues, including academic staff such as Personal Tutors, professional services staff such as Student Support Officers, chaplains, staff working in residential accommodation, and specialist professional services staff such as counsellors and mental health mentors.
Renaming of the service
We have had regular feedback from students and from staff through questionaries’ and in student forums that for many the name Student Disability Service isn’t reflective of the range of people we help. Our plan is to change the service name in the coming academic year and we have already completed significant work on this through reviewing the names of other universities teams who look after disabled students and students with additional support needs and from consulting with the student association, through student forums and from direct feedback. We have agreed a short list of names that we believe continue to acknowledge the disabled students we support but are more inclusive of other students who don’t see themselves as having a disability. Our plan is to ask the university community to vote on a name and our hope is that we will have a more inclusive named service which the students and staff have agreed best represents the work we aim to do.
Renaming of the service
We have long wondered about a different name for the Chaplaincy and revisit this question every year. We would welcome suggestions! Please do send some to us.
We have so far found that every alternative name we have considered is too narrow. The Chaplaincy is not a counselling service, and while we operate the University Listening Service, this is only one aspect of what we provide. We also run the Edinburgh University Mindfulness Initiative, take the lead of some of the UoE Refugee work, lead on responses to national and international tragedies, provide reflective space within the institution for thinking about the nature of the university, its vision and values, etc.
Healthcare Chaplaincies have moved over to using such terms as ‘spiritual care’, but that is also too narrow for us and doesn’t capture the community and social justice aspects of our work.
The term ‘Chaplaincy’ does capture all of these elements. Chaplaincy is a growing movement at the moment, in all manner of work places, sports teams, fashion houses etc, not to mention the more traditional services in prisons, hospitals, educational institutions and the armed forces. Chaplaincy is growing as a diverse movement, with an increasing number of Humanist, Muslim, Sikh, Pagan, and other Chaplains.
So while we would be interested in another name that did not put people off, we may find that we change our name just as ‘chaplaincy’ comes to be understood for the diverse entity that it is.
Equality and diversity
Ensuring trans and non-binary students and staff feel safe and supported
The University has a strong and long-standing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and to promoting a positive culture which celebrates difference, challenges prejudice and ensures fairness. Our staff and students are our greatest assets and all members of the University community should expect to be able to excel, and to be respected and valued for their unique perspectives and contributions.
The University has a zero-tolerance stance towards harassment, bullying, discrimination and victimisation of any kind – this includes zero tolerance towards transphobia. Regarding the anti-trans slogans, we removed the materials upon discovery and reassure students and staff that, where applicable, these matters will be dealt with through disciplinary action.
The University should be a safe place for difficult conversations. We are committed to defending freedom of speech and expression, as long as it is carried out within the law and in a respectful manner. We have not organised a transphobic event. Given the size of our community, it is inevitable that the ideas of different members will often and, quite naturally, conflict. We encourage members of our community to use their judgement and openly contest ideas that they oppose, and feel protected in doing so.
The University will continue to support colleagues in expressing views even when the subject might be considered challenging by others in our community. We are clear that the University should both be a safe place for discussion and that freedom of expression is essential