Does Academic Freedom Still Exist
at Kingston University?

The following is the University's policy statement on academic freedom:


But what does Music Senior Lecturer, Tim Ewers allegedly have to say was the basis for his grievance complaint against Dr Howard Fredrics, as put forth by the University's 'independent' investigator Mr Zafar Ali:

"HF's refusal to co-operate with smooth running of course - disruptive at meetings, refusal to accept majority decisions, refusal to listen to others. Disrupted Research Meetings."

Is it within University policy and the Education Reform Act of 1988 to impose disciplinary sanctions against a staff member who simply expresses a disagreement with "majority decisions"?

Or should such a complaint, as allegedly lodged by Tim Ewers, have been dismissed by the University as vexatious and unlawful?

Which should take priority -- the "smooth running" of a course or the principles of academic freedom, as expressed within University policy and the Education Reform Act of 1988?

What do YOU think?

SA lecturer's 'freedom to criticise' verdict welcomed by UK

Melanie Newman

Times Higher Education Supplement
04 January 2008

Academic freedom includes the right to criticise university managers, a High Court judge has ruled.

Although the case was heard in the South African courts, the ruling has been welcomed by UK campaigners, who argue that academics' right to question received wisdom must not be restricted to cover only their area of research expertise.

Impact of The Loss
of Academic Freedom
at Kingston University

Senior Lecturer, Dr Howard Fredrics advocated for retention of rigorous and intellectually stimulating teaching of subject matter in Music Technology during his tenure at the University. But some of his colleagues disagreed with that view, feeling that low admissions standards and high retention rates were more important to the long term well being of the course. Rather than aiming to recruit and retain excellent students, they opted for the path of least resistance.

The contrasting views represent bonafide and legitimate academic differences of opinion, which one would expect to be freely and openly discussed in the context of an institution that portends to uphold common principles of academic freedom.

Now that Dr Fredrics has been ousted from his position, it seems only fair to explore the outcomes of such a monolithic view towards the curriculum, which apparently now exists among current staff members in the programme, with an eye towards forming a view of the benefits of allowing diversity of opinions to co-exist.

The following is a quote by a recent former student, who left the programme at Kingston for the programme at Oxford Brookes University:-

"When I went to the open day Kingston University I was impressed with what I was told about the course and the facilities shown to me. The setting seemed perfect for me, near London but not too urban, lots of woods and greenery and being a country I guess thats what I was after.

As the course started I couldn't help but think that it seemed as if it were designed for primary school children. I put down to the fact that everyone in the class came from different educational backgrounds and we all needed to be at the same level of basic understanding before the course started properly, truth being that most of the people on the course had come straight from doing a BTEC and new exactly what they were doing. When we were still clapping rhythms in the sixth week and hadn't seen a studio I started to get worried. People were dropping of the course everyday, transferring to other universities or simply going home. At the end of semester 1, upwards of 15 people had left the course. I dicided that I would probably do the same unless thing picked up a little in the next week or so. I also decided to go and have a look around the lovely studios they have shown me on the open day. They'd gone, removed and replaced with pianos. I was outraged! I spoke to my tutor and he told me that they had been moved to another building so I checked that out and there was only half of the equipment left and none of I look particularly up to date. As far as studying Contemporary Music at Kingston is concerned, I'd imagine it's very good but when you are being how to use Logic (express might I add) my someone who looks like he hasn't even seen a computer before, you know something isn't right."

Here is another quote from a student who left the course feeling quite dissatisfied:-
"I don't really have a problem with the lecturers, just all this singing crap i hate, I mean i went to kingston to do music technology not choir practice, and they said I had to join an ensemble, not a choir, and then they changed that. Also sounds and structures I thought was about learning about acoustics of different shaped rooms and stuff, all we have done is the beatles, and because most of the students live in kingston hill i dont really talk to them very much-- there's only one music student left in middle mill--i think all the rest are leaving so i am too lolol. "

Here is a what a student who graduated from the course said about the Kingston School of Music experience:-
"It's always been unbelievable to me that I got in to Kingston to study music by just sending an application with references in, no auditions or anything. Not that I found it too challenging - I'd already done most of the things we did in the 1st year at school around the time I was 15. It made me quite unmotivated and lazy, and obviously, resulted in me not putting my best effort in."

And what a student who studied Music Performance said about her School of Music experience:-

Subject: Re: Music/performance
About: Kingston University
Submitted by: jennie
Date: 29th May 2006

"Very lame. They've cut the number of hours of lessons. The ensembles suck. The lecturers don't care, except for some of the instrumental/vocal teachers. I didn't learn anything about music - they just had me write papers without having been taught anything."

Here is what one of Kingston University's External Examiner's said about the Music Course:-
Please comment on the level of actual student achievement against the assessment standards set ( e.g. in your view how does the performance of Kingston University students compare with that of students elsewhere?).

I have a growing concern that marking of students work is on the generous side.   Last year I made a similar comment with regard to two modules in particular, but my concern is now more widespread.   In varying degrees, marks awarded for work sampled in the following modules was generous.   There were several cases where work was judged to be a classification band higher than I would have expected e.g. work awarded an A grade I judged to be of the standard of B grade work, work awarded a B+ I judged to be more appropriately of C+ standard and so on.   Modules sampled where this issue was identified included the following level 3 modules:

•  MU3205   Research Project (composition)

•  MU3106   Scoring and Arranging II

•  MU3115   Contemporary Issues in Music Education

•  MU3120   The Studio Musician A

•  MU3123   Computer Music Composition

•  MU3121   Music Business and IT

Although there is a clear system of double marking in place, internal cross-module evaluation might be appropriate to ensure that there is consistency in standards of marking between modules so that a B grade awarded in one module is equivalent, as far as possible, to a B grade in another module at the same level.

Students written work in support of practical projects show a number of shortcomings. The accompanying written work is often insufficiently evaluative / critical of the work undertaken even where this forms an important part of the method of assessment.   Use of English and quality of presentation are also areas for attention.

The following is a link to an article in the Surrey Comet about Kingston's latest academic scandal -- a research fellow admitting to having awarded marks of 'distinction' to all of his postgraduate students, with no apparent objection from the University:-

Author Not Very Creative With Uni Students Marks

In the context of the above student and External Examiner feedback, as well as the recent marks inflation scandal, do you think that Dr Fredrics' views and concerns on maintaining academic rigour were without merit?
How does academic rigour affect student motivation and retention?
What do YOU think?

Let's read on, shall we?
The verdict: universities are failing too few people

Kingston University Students
Who Exercise Academic Freedom
Are Allegedly Subjected to
Threats & Disciplinary Action

The following excerpted and redacted conversation took place via instant messaging between two Kingston students:-

"YYYY says: u not been kicked out of uni then

XXXX says: no

YYYY says: thats cool then

XXXX says: if the uni kicked me out for criticising them it would probably be illegal and leave the[m] open to legal action... you cant fire someone for criticising a company let alone a public education institution

YYYY says: the uni wouldn't but the union could

YYYY says: which would then mean u would be kicked out of uni

XXXX says: why would the union kick me out because I criticised the uni

YYYY says: it's the way it's run

YYYY says: happened to bbbb and mmmm remember

YYYY says: they got suspended

XXXX says: how did they criticse the uni?

YYYY says: was through the union

XXXX says: they got suspended from their club, right?

YYYY says: it was a whole load of stuff, but basically the couldn't attend lectures or use the library and security had to escort mmmmm to his exams

YYYY says:suspended from the union

YYYY says: its a whole long story

XXXX says: then what happens is the union refers him to the uni they judge if he has broken the code of student behaviour then the uni can chuck him out however, you cannot sign a contract that violates the human rights act and therefore the terms that do including bringing the uni into disrepute it is null or void if it violates your right to freedom of speech slander is different though

XXXX says: slander is lieing about something, I have never lied about the uni


[From subsequent conversation:- ]

XXXX says: well you said I would get suspended if I continued to criticise the university--that is a threat

YYYY says: lol and i have the power to get the uni to suspend u?

YYYY says: it's a fact that u will if u continue. everyone knows that

XXXX says: Except it is illegal....

XXXX says: even for the student union to...

YYYY says: no it's not

YYYY says: u need to get over your self

XXXX says: Section 43 of the education reform act 1988 made it illegal to

YYYY says: i don't care about what u have to say. neither does anyone else

XXXX says: fair enough I would just like to point you to this section of a goverment document that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students, employees and visiting speakers (Section 43 of the Education Act 1986).

XXXX says: Colleges should work closely with student/learner groups and societies to make sure there are clear policies on their duty to take reasonable steps to ensurethat freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students,employees and visiting speakers

YYYY says: as if i care about it. i was told by several memeber of union staff to pass it on to you."

Is this the sort of lesson we should be teaching our students about academic freedom?

Does the Student Union represent the interests of students or of the University?

Does the fact that the Student Union receives additional funds from the University for handling merchandising of University products affect the way it operates?

What do YOU think?

Evidence of KUSU and Kingston University's
Alleged Collusion
to Silence Student Dissent
and to Disseminate Misinformation

This LINK is of a PDF document containing a digest of a Kingston University-related Yahoo group where students, past and present, as well as University staff participate in a discussion about certain University and Student Union policies and practices. The provider of this digest believes that this constitutes evidence of bullying by Kingston University Student Union-affiliated individuals in an effort to silence the sender's dissenting voice, and efforts to truthfully report on the actual level of association between Kingston University and the University of London.

This document is provided for the reader's benefit in deciding for him/herself whether or not bullying and misinformation is taking place.

Certain names and e-mail addresses have been redacted to protect the whistleblower's identity.

143 students expelled for plagiarism
12 June 2008

Times Higher Education Supplement
By Rebecca Attwood

Survey finds institutions with less selective entry have higher offending rates, says Rebecca Attwood

Larger universities with less selective admissions policies have higher rates of student plagiarism and apply less severe penalties than their more selective counterparts, new research suggests.

In a survey of 93 UK higher education institutions, a total of 9,229 cases were recorded in one year, and 143 students were expelled, according to a Higher Education Academy and Joint Information Systems Committee study.

Researchers found wide variations both in rates of plagiarism and in the penalties applied, which appeared to be linked to type of institution.

Universities and colleges fell into three main categories when separated by their plagiarism policies by the researchers - Fiona Duggan, former head of advice and guidance for the Jisc Plagiarism Advisory Service, and Peter Tennant, a research assistant at Newcastle University.

Among one group, dominated by large, less selective universities, the rate of plagiarism recorded was twice as great (1.04 per cent) as among the group dominated by smaller, low-income institutions (0.51 per cent).

A group of predominantly large, more selective, research-intensive universities had a rate of 0.66 per cent.

Use of harsher measures - penalties more likely to seriously affect the student's degree outcome - also varied profoundly.

Among the smaller, low-income institutions, tougher "degree-level penalties", including suspension, grade penalties and expulsion, were used to deal with just 1.2 per cent of cases compared with 14 per cent among the less selective universities, and 19.7 per cent among the more selective universities.

In small, low-income institutions, expulsion was very rare - 0.3 per cent, whereas it was 4 per cent at less selective universities and 8 per cent at more selective universities.

The evidence suggests that "the inherent characteristics of an institution are considerably more important in predicting the likelihood of a severe penalty than the nature of the offence", the report says.

Across all institutions there were 2,372 instances where students were required to resubmit an assignment for a reduced or capped mark. A total of 2,192 formal warnings were issued.

The average rate of plagiarism was 0.72 per cent - equivalent to 7.2 cases for every 1,000 students - substantially lower than the 25 per cent of respondents who indicated that they had plagiarised in a 2004 survey by FreshMinds.

Among postgraduate students, the rate was higher than among undergraduate students (1.19 per cent and 0.67 per cent respectively).

The vast majority (92.3 per cent) of cases were first offences, which is "reassuring", say the authors.

"Despite the debate regarding the appropriate treatment of a student plagiarist, the relatively low national proportion of subsequent offences suggests that current policies are moderately successful in educating the student or deterring further infringement," the report says.

During 2004-2005, how many students in the now former School of Music were expelled or otherwise disciplined when they submitted identical assignments in electronic format on disc, which represented clear and unequivocal evidence of collusion among the group of students?

Could it be that only one student received any sanctions -- the student who actually ADMITTED to the act?

What do you think happened to Dr Howard Fredrics after he asked Course Director, Gloria Toplis during a Module Assessment Board about the outcome of the School's investigation of allegations of plagiarism against these students, so that he could finalize his reporting of students' marks in the relevant module?

Why do YOU think that complaints were later raised that Dr Fredrics had failed to submit his marks for that module in time for that year's Module Assessment Board?

Could it be because he dared to mention the numerous cases of plagiarism in the presence of External Examiners?

Is it within the realm of Academic Freedom for lecturers to expect to be permitted to raise concerns about student plagiarism without fear of retribution?

Was it wrong for Dr Fredrics to have advocated for increasing admissions standards in the now former School of Music?

What do YOU think?