Universities are admitting students who have poor English skills and are unprepared for degree courses, lecturers have said.
Academics complained that lower entry requirements had led to a generation of undergraduates who cannot read, write or speak proper English. A survey of more than 1,000 university staff found that almost half thought students were not ready for their undergraduate studies.
While teaching is a source of satisfaction for most lecturers, many spoke of growing frustration with administrative duties, according to the Times Higher Education survey.
About half of staff reported that students turned up for class without having done the required background reading. A large majority of staff said that students complained if their marks were lower than expected, while about a third believed that standards in higher education were slipping.
Overall, almost nine in ten academics, or 88 per cent, said that teaching was a source of satisfaction to them. Six per cent said that they were unhappy about having to educate students. Several expressed exasperation with growing class sizes and with students who are becoming less engaged and more demanding.
“Teaching is now painful rather than enjoyable,” said one senior lecturer who blamed “large classes [in which] I don’t get to know the students”.
The lecturer added: “My postgraduate classes are smaller, but the students are lethargic, and many of them don’t have strong English language skills. Students see me mainly to complain about marks.”
A professor at a university in London said that education had become bureaucratic and micromanagerial.
The survey sought the opinion of 1,150 higher education staff. About 85 per cent of respondents came from more than 130 institutions in the UK, but staff from various other regions also took part, including the US, Canada, Australia, Europe and Asia.