Since it launched at the beginning of the month, RateYourLecturer.co.uk has aroused the ire of academics. Lancaster University management professor Bill Cooke summed up the mood in a blog post about the controversial website in which he wrote, “I am a human being. I’m not a dancing bear.” Of course, when you’re paying £9,000 a year for the services of someone, be they a bear or a human being, you want them to be good at what they do. And, happily for law students, RateYourLecturer.co.uk has, so far, seen law lecturers ranked among the best movers on the great dance floor of learning…
Three law lecturers feature in RateYourLecturer’s top ten lecturers — making law the highest represented subject area for excellent teaching (according to RateYourLecturer’s not exactly scientific rating system, of which more later). No other subject has more than one lecturer in the top ten.
So who are these stars?
At number 10 it’s Northumbria University’s Alistair Bulloch. “Shim1” is a big fan:
At number 7 it’s Essex University’s Penny Brearey-Horne. For “Zaza1988”, Brearey-Horne has it all:
At number 3 it’s Northumbria University’s Jennifer Stephens. “Notmyrealname8” views Stephens as flawless:
Elsewhere in RateYourLecturer’s top 50 there are three further law lecturers: Essex University duo Karen Hulme (39th) and Peter Luther (40th), and Exeter University’s Karen McAuliffe (48th).
But do these rankings actually mean anything?
The University and College Union is sceptical, with its head of higher education voicing concerns about the site’s methodology to Times Higher Education: “There is no way of determining if the individual posting comments has a real concern about the standard of their course, the university or the teaching, or just fancy lashing out after getting a poor mark,” he said.
Meanwhile, a test conducted by Olivier Ratle, senior lecturer in organisation studies at the University of the West of England, revealed potential flaws in the site.
“I thought, just for fun, let’s see how rigorous the system is,” said Ratle. “My friends managed to register using different email addresses and fake names, and were successful in rating me very positively.”
Thanks to his pals — one of whom wrote, “He’s just too handsome, can’t really concentrate on what he’s saying,” — Ratle became the 4th highest-ranked lecturer on the site.
However, RateYourLecturer founder Michael Bulman — who graduated with a history degree from Northumbria University last year — has attempted to allay concerns by explaining that while it’s possible that “one idiot will say something stupid”, comments were constantly reviewed, with most “useful and well thought out”.
Update: Lancaster University law lecturer Angus MacCulloch had this to say about the site, telling Legal Cheek:
“After chatting to a few colleagues we’re probably best described as being bemused rather than concerned.
“We are used to ‘robust’ feedback from our internal processes and there will probably be little on there which we haven’t seen anywhere else. That said it does give a public outlet for nasty anonymous abuse targeted at individual members of staff.
“In the past that kind of ill tempered comment might only find its way onto a Facebook page or Twitter. This could be a more permanent and public focus for such comments.
“I’d like to think that most people would treat it with care, and there is already evidence that spoof entries are appearing, but it could be misused in very uncomfortable ways.”