Attendance: David Taylor (DGS), Kate Courage (Library), Steve Purcell (MA English)

Attendance: David Taylor (DGS), Kate Courage (Library), Steve Purcell (MA English)

PGSSLC Minutes

Term 1, Meeting 1

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Apologies: Chantal Wright (MA Translations), Katie Hall (MA), Tim Leach (MA Writing), Fiona Farnsworth (Secretary) Nick Lawrence(MA World Literature), Sarah Moss (MA Writing)

Attendance: David Taylor (DGS), Kate Courage (Library), Steve Purcell (MA English)

Chair: Katja Laug

1. Round of introductions, elections/confirmation of roles

  • This discussion is postponed until next meeting.

2. Library news

  • DT and KC have discussed ways Library can support PGRS – dedicated tours, office hours, purchase of new books.
  • With any library issues it is best to contact KC directly; issues can often be solved quickly this way
  • KL planning to send out a newsletter after each PGSSLC – to cascade information. Kate to send library summary to KL.

3. Teaching provision for 3rd year PGRs (Katja Laug)

  • KL notes problem with those PGRS (esp. 3rd years) doing the APP and therefore needing teaching experience.
  • KL notes that delay in timetabling and also announcement of teaching provision. DT responded that the former affected all staff and will look into why this happened. Teaching interviews for PGRs happened too late in 2016/17; DT assured the meeting that they will take place earlier this year.
  • It was agreed that committee will look over the teaching allocation policy together in the next meeting to identify any areas of confusion or lack of clarity.
  • KL raised the possibility the language of the teaching allocation policy could be amend to give priority to PGRs “in first year of teaching” rather to those in their second year of their PhD.
  • DT agreed with KL that the teaching allocation policy document needs to be circulated widely and that all staff need to be familiar with it.

4. Sessional Tutor Payroll (STP) - feedback and matters arising (Katja Laug)

KL noted the following matters:

  • Provision for marking is not in contracts: no information about expectation or payment is given and no information about marking is offered beyond “3000 words/1 hour pay” regulation, i.e. what happens to the 3001st word? Until clarification over marking is given on the contract, KL will advise PG tutors not to mark.
  • Contracts need to be clear about “red circling” (that no one should earn less than what they earned before the agreement)
  • Free UCU membership for PGRs who teach is welcomed and all are encouraged to join.
  • Tutors who are teaching post-viva should be paid at FA6 level.
  • Warwick Anti-Casualisation/UCU Representative in the department: Myka Tucker-Abramson and Nick Lawrence for UCU).
  • STP coordinator will be Chantal Wright. This was only very recently communicated to STP tutors. DT noted that this was because Chantal has just been appointed to the post.
  • Information about the STP forum was not communicated. The first forum was cancelled and will be rescheduled. It needs to be made clear that the forum is for PGRs.
  • DT will make sure that there is a link to the complaints procedure on the teaching allocation policy. DT to let KL know when this is done.

5. Feedback on MA in Creative Writing

KL has feedback received from students within MA writing:

  • Disappointment in the discrepancy between what is promised and what is delivered. Discrepancy between prospectus and delivery.
  • Lack of information being passed on, such as the possibility for auditing seminars.
  • Self-learning process as a process of glossing over poor chain of communication; basic information not provided.
  • Modules that were listed during application time end up not being run, such as Fiction Writing II, or some genre fiction courses. Modules offered to PT students need to run for at least two consecutive years.
  • Poor organization of those courses that are offered, scheduled very late and with little to no prior information (general problem within the department affecting both students and teaching staff). Teaching staff not as advertised on website, feels “parachuted” in due to lack of staff availability
  • No contingency for staff absences (sickness). Last year 3 or 4 seminars not held, replacement only after assignment deadline.
  • Information about staff absences, seminars not taking place communicated too late.
  • Clarification required on how to change from taught-only course to long project - no guideline or policy.
  • Late turnaround for marking. Some Fiction 1 marking not yet returned, submission from 1 September not yet returned, no explanation, only notice of delay. Fiction 1 marks not yet on Tabula.
  • Students feel “taken for granted” once fees are paid. Students feel they are bothering staff if they email, would appreciate a note from staff/supervisors every now and then to check in and show that staff is aware that they have students “in their care”.
  • Question of how to actually address these issues and make better provisions for the future.

In response, DT noted:

  • In terms of late turnaround in marking, this is deeply frustrating. Those colleagues who fail to return marking within 20-working days are asked by the department (usually the convener) to accelerate marking, but there is no way of enforcing this at present.
  • The procedure for cancelled seminars is clearly established: in cases where a class has to be cancelled due to staff illness, the member of staff in question must rearrange the class for the earliest opportunity at a time that’s convenient for students.
  • Regarding modules not running this is not something that will change. The department make it very clear on the website and on the module selection form that all modules shown are provisional and will only run if they recruit enough students (it’s not feasible to run a module with just two or three). However, the specific case of Fiction Workshop 2 is more complex, as this is a core module.

Many of the points raised need to be addressed by some in the Warwick Writing Programme. It was agreed to defer further discussion of these until the next meeting, when such staff will be present.

6. MA feedback Literature

KL has received feedback from MAEL, MALTS, and MAWL students:

  • Some MA courses have too many students (for example Fundamentals of World Lit, The Medical Mind). Also students auditing.
  • MA teaching is now taking place on Wednesday afternoons until 14:30 and there is a further module from 16:00-18:00. Does the no teaching on Wednesday rule not apply? Can we move PGSSLC meetings to allow MAs to join?

DT responded:

  • The Department is not responsible for The Medical Mind, which is an IATL module and concerns must be raised directly with them. However, in the case of Fundamentals of World Literature, which currently has 20 students, this is a real problem and no authorization was given for such over-recruitment. DT will investigate and look to find a solution. Students will not be allowed to audit this class.
  • It has been the case that the HoD has permitted some MA teaching on Wednesday afternoons to avoid clashes. However, this is an issue that needs to be revisited – DT to raise at TALC. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to move PGSSLC meetings as the current time is the only one possible within the present committees schedule. But meetings can certainly begin a few minutes late to allow those who’ve just left class to attend.

Communication – KL not told about T&LC

7. News from new MA programmes (DT)

  • DT reports that the new Mas have been delayed as they need to go through the Financial Approval process. Frustratingly, this means that the Mas will not go on the books this year.

8. Any other business

  • KL notes that PGSSLC members need to be given more time to read any documentation which requires their approval or comment. DT concurred.
  • KL expressed disappointment that staff attendance at PGSSLC meetings was poor and that this implied a lack of respect for postgraduate concerns and welfare. DT will email staff committee members to emphasize the importance of attending.

Next meeting scheduled for Wednesday 06 December, 14:30 hrs, H5.43