RateYourLecturer.co.uk works with students in finding the best lecturers, whilst redressing the balance between teaching and research by creating competition between universities. With the average cost of tertiary education amounting to £53,000, RateYourLecturer.co.uk provides a platform to help both prospective and existing university students achieve the best possible educational return for their investment.
We reached out to the founders of RateYourLecturer.co.uk (RYL) and Michael, co-founder and Director of RYL was kind enough to provide us with this interview. It’s brilliant to see a young entrepreneur take time off his busy schedule to provide answers to our questions.
Faizan: Firstly, thank you for agreeing to this interview. I wanted to know how and when the idea about RYL really came about?
Michael: The idea first came about during my final year of university (2012). I can’t remember exactly when we settled upon the idea of RYL, but I do know that there had been much discussion at the time about the relative lecturer quality, or lack of quality on each of our different courses. Quite a few people had also changed modules multiple times simply to find a good lecturer and as a result had missed out on some early material. The idea just snowballed from there and, thankfully, the enthusiasm for RYL and helping other students is still very much with us.
Faizan: Who is behind RYL? And how many of you came together on this start-up? What background do you come from?
Michael: Our numbers have varied throughout the project, as everyone who has worked with us in the past has either been a student or a graduate. My personal background is as a History graduate who has done a few different jobs over time. None tech-related though! Thankfully, we were lucky enough to come across Netsells – an excellent web design team who are also made up of recent grads and students. Not a bad match really!
Faizan: RYL states that “This is the only way to improve teaching in the UK whilst holding your lecturers to account.” That’s not a statement we hear often. How do you envisage RYL aiding and helping lecturers to take that feedback and improve upon the teaching quality?
Michael: RYL is the easiest way to rate your lecturers and offer feedback. There is no set time as to when you do it, everyone gets to see it and everyone can learn from it.
The (rather dull) forms you are occasionally encouraged to fill in at university can easily be ignored, adjusted or put to one side. Research-intensive lecturers can be given a pass, as they bring in more money and good quality teaching can be sacrificed.
RateYourLecturer.co.uk cannot be ignored, so long as students take a few minutes once a semester, or once a year to rate their lecturers. The power to improve teaching in the UK is now within the very capable hands of students.
RYL will also be publishing annual league tables based upon teaching quality. These will include lecturers, courses, universities and quite a few more categories that we are currently considering. These should encourage competition, especially if prospective students are choosing a course at one university over another university, thanks to the quality of teaching.
Faizan: That’s cool, but so far, the ratings on RYL have been overwhelmingly positive! How are you planning to take this to students for them to provide constructive but challenging feedback?
Michael: They have been hugely positive! A great relief to us, and if they’re not 100% positive, they are, by and large, extremely constructive, which is a feather in the cap for UK students.
Before we started taking ratings, we were relying on the great British sense of fair play, and thankfully, it is well and truly there for all to see. Lecturers are getting the ratings and comments they deserve and pressure is gradually mounting on universities to provide better quality teaching and recognise those who already do.
We just need to remain proactive and hope students continue to help us spread the word.
Faizan: Spreading the word and growing comes at a cost, so what is the business model you are following at the moment? Is this something that will be for-profit and growing in the future?
Michael: This is an interesting one as we don’t want to get in the way of providing the best possible service for the millions of students in the UK.
However, we have decided that we would like to support other grad and student start-ups on the site. We are currently recruiting for an ‘Ad wall’ which will essentially be a page on the site promoting the best of up and coming student/grad businesses in the UK. We will also provide more info about each company and offer discount codes, so that anyone using our site can get the best deals available.
(On our League Table page you can see an advert for ‘unicarads’ – a great new student business that we will be featuring in more detail on the Ad wall.)
Faizan: You have all good intentions, nevertheless, there has been some debate over the idea of RYL – what are you doing to engage with university professors and students to make this an acceptable solution?
Michael: The response to the site has been overwhelming since we first started building it last year. Quite frankly, such positivity was a little unnerving for us, but although unexpected, greatly appreciated!
Since the launch we have had one or two lecturers in particular object to the site, but they are in the minority. Quite a number have actually gone out of their way to encourage their students to rate them. One sceptical lecturer gave it a go and promptly got back to us to say he was actually very pleased, as not only had he received some positive ratings, but more importantly, he had some constructive criticism to work with.
Ultimately, this site is all about providing students with a platform to help one another. In time and with more students rating (please do if you’re reading this!) there will be the ability to choose modules based on the best lecturers, and as a whole, lecturers will have to concentrate more on teaching to the best of their ability!
This really is a case of students working together to get the most out of their £50,000 of debt.
Faizan: Thank you for that interview. It’s good to have some insight into RYL and even better to know that the start-up scene in the UK is growing. We wish you best of luck with it and I will follow your progress as you guys make it big.
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