By Dulcie Lee and Luke Terheyden-Keighley
- Work isÂ “barely checked“ and “unfairly” marked
- Forced to cut corners to mark 9,000 words an hour
- Teachers pressured in “nightmarish” exploitation
KINGâ€™S are conning thousands of undergraduates by forcing teaching assistants to work at impossible speeds in â€œnightmarishâ€ conditions â€“ leading to â€œunfairâ€ essay-marking and botched seminars.
Some teachers are expected to mark 9,000 words every hour but they claim this is â€œimpossibleâ€ and that â€œthere is pressure to cut corners.â€
One experienced teacher admitted he couldnâ€™t even mark studentsâ€™ work â€œfairlyâ€, adding: â€œI can barely check if [their] calculations and results are correctâ€.
To give students proper feedback, teachers are forced to work unrealistically long hours â€“ meaning they effectively earn less than the minimum wage. A survey of more than 450 graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) â€“ obtained exclusively by Roar â€“ has revealed the full extent of the Collegeâ€™s systemic â€œexploitationâ€.
Generic feedback template
One assistant said that if they stuck to their contracted hours they would only manage to give basic feedback on a third of their essays, adding: â€œI would prepare perhaps a quarter of the required reading per week.â€
This has left many Kingâ€™s students oblivious to their own academic shortcomings. â€œIf I spent 90 minutes marking a bad paper then I end up getting paid Â£3.10 an hour,â€ one GTA said, explaining that heâ€™s expected to glance over a paper in just 20 minutes.
â€œSince I canâ€™t afford to work this way I compromise by spending less time, and offering less detailed feedback.â€
However, seven in ten GTAs often work over their contracted hours – an act one person described as â€œcharityâ€. Yet many teachers, caught between paying the rent and completing exhaustive research projects, have no choice but to drastically reduce quality â€“Â at the expense of students.
One teacher said the pressure was so acute that he resorted to using a generic feedback template to cover the â€œbasicsâ€.
â€˜I donâ€™t even get through the required readingsâ€™
The survey appears to explain the Collegeâ€™s dire student satisfaction ranking â€“ 111th in the country â€“ which drags Kingâ€™s down in domestic leagues every year. Only 62% of Kingâ€™s students were satisfied with â€œassessment and feedbackâ€ last year â€“ 10% below the national average.
Half of them felt they werenâ€™t trained very well, only receiving two hours of compulsory training per year. â€œ[Weâ€™re] concerned we will be â€˜found outâ€™ as â€˜not proper teachersâ€™,â€ one admitted. Many worry that about whether their lack of experience gives students an â€œunfair dealâ€.
Others are left totally in the dark with no idea who their bosses even are, supervised by professors who donâ€™t reply to their emails.
Many seminar leaders are only paid for one hourâ€™s worth of preparation time per seminar. This means itâ€™s almost impossible to both attend the lectures on which the seminars are supposedly based and then prepare for the seminar.
â€˜You need to say we take this seriouslyâ€™
Departments have apparently claimed that itâ€™s â€œnot mandatoryâ€ to attend the lectures, but one teaching assistant pointed out: â€œThe seminars we teach are about the lectures! Therefore in order to discuss the content we need to attend them.â€
â€œWe are also â€˜informallyâ€™ obliged to attend the lectures,â€ another said. One teacher admitted that he doesnâ€™t even manage the compulsory readings. But bosses have been dismissive when confronted with concerns.
One GTA said pay issues were always received â€œawkwardlyâ€ with claims that â€œGTAs do not need to work more than contracted hoursâ€. Another said their Head of Department â€œtrivializedâ€ their concerns.
According to a PhD student: â€œIf you bring up [marking rates or teaching] with the Head of Dept he threatens you with employing a teaching fellow to do all the current PhD work.â€
A spokesperson from Kingâ€™s refused to comment.
However, Vice Principal for Education Karen Oâ€™Brien then told Roar: â€œYou need to say that we take these issues very seriously and that we have requested the full report and a meeting with the authors of the report before we can make an informed response.â€
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