Vice-Chancellor webcast - questions about students

In a webcast Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur answered several questions about students.

Read the full transcript below, or choose one of the following links.

Listen to the Vice-Chancellor's responses (MP3 file)
Watch the full webcast
Listen to Professor Vivien Jones' students FAQs podcast

I'd like to come on to the students now and talk a bit about them because another thing that's been raised is the issue of staff-student ratio which, it's being said, would increase from roughly 16-1 to 20-1, which would leave Leeds, as I understand it, one of the worst universities in the Russell Group for staff-student ratio. You've been quoted as saying you may have to take a short-term hit in that area - is that something you feel comfortable about, that the students get a worse experience of education?

Of course not. First of all, let me say any calculation of student-staff ratio at the moment, is at best premature because we've already said that we're not sure what staff we will be losing, where and when. I think there's a difference between the student-staff ratio that is numeric, for example, if I recruit a lot of extra researchers into the University who do research only and don't teach the students at all, then the student-staff ratio will drop, but you can quickly work out that the student experience wouldn't change very much. So, I think it's about what students experience in the classroom and in the practical classes and so on that's crucial and we would be looking to protect that as much as we can, albeit in very difficult circumstances.

Now, of course, if we do take £35 million in cost savings out of the organisation I think it is inevitable that there will be some areas of the University where the student-staff ratio may increase, and for me to pretend that it won't would be naive but we have to try and manage that situation and protect our student experience as much as we can, which is another reason why we need to plan now.

Are the students going to get any role in this process of consultation about what happens? Obviously you've got a system in place to consult with your staff. How can the students have any input into this process?

The students have to be involved and I'm delighted to say our Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching Viv Jones has done a very, very good job of keeping students informed about what's going on and bringing them into the discussion. We, of course, tend to operate with the student leaders - Leeds University Union - and we're talking to them all of the time, they have a series of student academic representatives through the faculties and schools and we're making sure that they're involved, and we're asking heads of school to involve students in discussions.

So, I think I would like to reassure the students of this University that their views will be being sought through this process. I'm doing an open meeting myself next week on 2 December which is open to all students to come along and ask me questions. Professor John Fisher and Professor Vivien Jones did something similar two or three weeks ago. I think we do have a good reputation for working with students in times of difficulty, this isn't the first set of difficulties we've faced in this University and we intend to keep students involved this time, too.

Is there any chance that any student will find the course they're on cut off, ended?

No, any student that starts a course in this University will finish that course in this University and they will be a graduate of this University. We have a 100% commitment to our students completing what they've started.

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