News - December 9, 2009

Teaching bonus for ghost lecturers not for keeps

They didn't teach but still bagged a teaching bonus from Wageningen UR. But not for keeps. The bonuses were later withdrawn from staff member Michiel de Vries and Spinoza price winner Willem de Vos, following criticisms from the education sector. Pim Brascamp, the bonus awarder, wants to throw light on the evaluation method.

The teaching bonus awards for 2010 were disclosed two weeks ago. The executive board allocated 650 thousand euros to courses highly rated by students in the previous academic year. At the same time, 25 lecturers received a total of 350 thousand euros because students had given them high marks for their courses.
Occupying the second place on the lecturers' list was Willem de Vos, who received 19,061 euros for an excellent explanation in a microbiology course. Several students had given him a high score, while De Vos was not responsible for teaching that course. Fourth on the list was Michiel de Vries, who received excellent scores from three students for a course about weed ecology. He received 18,250 euros, while he had not given any lectures. He had been hired temporarily by professor Holger Meinke to prepare for the course and had already left the university when it started.
The Education Institute (OWI), which was responsible for compiling the list, was alerted to the two ghost lecturers after the list was disclosed. OWI director Pim Brascamp acknowledges this oversight with regret. 'I should have gone through the lecturers list, and checked our information. This is very much regretted, since teaching assessments also play a role in employee assessments.' He has removed the two ghost lecturers from the list. The numbers 26 and 27, which did not have any bonus initially, now find themselves on the bonus list.
Each year, students carry out an evaluation of 750 Wageningen lecturers on the basis of their courses. Only courses which have received a score from at least eight students are considered for the bonus. There is no limit for the assessment of lecturers. Students can fill in as many as seven names on the evaluation form: coordinators, professors and lecturers involved in a subject. If several students gave the top score to a crowd puller such as De Vos, that would land him the prize. Brascamp will consider introducing a minimum of eight assessments for lecturers as well.
He is also considering linking the bonus to the number of courses taught by a lecturer. Two thirds of the lecturers who received a bonus had taught only one course, such as the lecturer who tops the bonus list: Marian Koster of the Sociology of Consumers and Households Group. After teaching a course at the end of her post-graduate study - a teaching research - her contract ended.
Other lecturers received high scores for more courses, such as well-known lecturers Gert Peek and Gosse Schraa, who owed their bonuses to five or six courses. 'Their performance is higher than that of someone who only teaches one course, says Brascamp. 'We should perhaps tag the bonus to the number of courses that a person taught and the number of students who benefitted from the education.'
The new list with teaching bonuses for lecturers can be found here.