Candidate interview: Alex Carlin

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Alex Carlin
Lonsdale

Standardise essay feedback across departments
Ensure extracurricular activities are recognised
Set a fee level that represents Lancaster quality as a university

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Alex Carlin has been involved with university politics since his first term at Lancaster University, and believes that his experience will set him in good stead should he be elected as the next Vice President Academic “I feel I am very much in the loop in terms of what students need and should receive from their academic rights. In the current climate [regarding the expected rise in tuition fees], what I think we should be doing is gaining more academic rights for students”.

In his three years at Lancaster University, Carlin has held the position of Lonsdale’s Education and Welfare Officer before being elected as Vice President of the college. He is currently the Cross Campus Officer for Academic Campaigns. All these positions have had “remits that strongly revolve around ensuring that the academic rights of students are upheld, that any problems which occur are addressed and that any opportunities to improve learning are seized” and it is this experience, along with the opportunity to represent students at a time of imminent and drastic change, which has born his enthusiasm for the role. 

Carlin strongly believes that feedback from assessments must be improved as it is “vital learning tool” for students hoping to improve on past marks and excel at university. Already, Carlin has been looking into the differences in the levels of feedback between departments noting that this disparity is “unacceptable”. When asked about what he planned to do to alter the wide spectrum of assessment feedback across the university, Carlin outlined a new system he wished to implement which would introduce a pro forma type of feedback for all essays. “What you would have is a different criterion that the professors would mark you on like the argument, structure, format, language and bibliography in a table. […]Underneath will be a space where they have to write the main strengths and weaknesses and how to improve it next time”. When questioned if this would extend drastically the amount of time spent marking essays, Carlin was quick to point out that this would not be the case as “[professors] essentially just have to tick a box to say yes they’ve done that well and when the student receives their work back they can see where they can improve”.

Carlin also commented on the ongoing issue of graduate unemployment. “I’d like to ensure that other extracurricular activities always go recognised because these are the things which will set aside two candidates, who have the same degree, and thus makes them more employable. I want to make sure these efforts always get recognised and that they’re encouraged”.

With undergraduate’s rights very much at the forefront of student debate, Carlin said that he will not forget about post graduate’s rights. “We now need to be aware that post graduates might well be next for the chop in education cuts. The university has always been very proud that it is a research led university. The university must recognise and encourage that we receive the same grants for research that we’ve have done previously and that they protect the post graduate’s desire to study here”.

When pressed on how high he believed fees should be raised, Carlin’s reply was diplomatic claiming that “there are lots of very complex things to take it to account when setting the price of tuition fees”. In order to match the stand still costs (the amount of cost cuts from the university and how much is needed to compensate for this short fall), Carlin said “they’re [the university] looking at the cost to be around £7,500. However, we need to be allowed to take part in the discussion in setting this price. […] I’d struggle to say that people are happy with the £3,000 [worth of education] they are getting at the moment. So the university needs to look into using that £9,000 and spending it in such a way that students will get much better value for their education”.

During the interview, Carlin made it clear that it was not a black and white decision mentioning that “most of top 40 universities, which includes the Russell group and the 94 group are pretty much all looking into charging the maximum if they can. So if they’re all charging £9,000 and we’re charging £6,500-£7,000 it sends out the wrong message to prospective students, who aren’t aware of Lancaster’s reputation as a centre of excellence in teaching, that we are a sub-standard university compared to those [who charge the full amount] so it’s important to make it competitive in that sense”. However, throughout the discussion on tuition fees, Carlin made it clear that “Should fees increase; students should be receiving a higher quality of education.  I want the integrity of our degrees to be maintained and I would like to see hidden costs reduced amongst many other improvements to our education”.

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