Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Learning Development Unit & Writing Centre Closure

o On Tuesday 9th November, staff in the Learning Development Unit (LDU) & Writing Centre at London Metropolitan University were informed of the intention of University senior management to close down both services.

o This will make London Met one of very few UK Universities offering no expert Learning Development support for students.

o Senior management are attempting to justify this by suggesting study support will be arranged as necessary by faculties/departments. However, in the absence of any additional funding allocated for this, it will result in sporadic availability of study support at best.

o This decision flies in the face of present Strategic Plan promises to offer ‘learning advice, support and environments to assist learners from many different educational backgrounds’ and is based on an inadequate and highly secretive ‘review’ process.

o Redundancies are planned to take place at an unspecified time before the end of the present academic year and staff in the LDU and Writing Centre have been given 44 days to argue the case for alternative proposals.

o For more information on the LDU and Writing Centre and their range of support for students and staff within the University, see:

www.londonmet.ac.uk/ldu ... click on ‘events, times & locations’
www.londonmet.ac.uk/ldustaff (the LDU’s staff-supporting website)

o Whether you are a London Met student or member of staff, we invite you to write to the VC to have the ‘Section 188’ notices rescinded and to recognise the valuable contribution of the LDU and Writing Centre to the institution:

o If you are a student who has benefited from LDU or Writing Centre support, we would like to hear your comments. Please blog here!

o If you are a staff member or student from outside London Met who has been
influenced by the work of the Writing Centre or LDU, we’d like to hear
from you too! Please leave your comments on this blog.

What can you do to help?

Post comments and letters of support on our blog.
Join the Don't write off the LDU Facebook group
Sign the Don't write off the LDU petition
Send this editable email to the VC


  1. Dear members of the Students' Union, I am writing to you about the issue of closing the LDU.

    My personal opinion is that these measures are absolutely unacceptable. The LDU is an essential Unit of our University and is very important for the life of students at London Met.

    First of all, the LDU gives an essential knowledge to those students whose academic background was different from European. During my 6 years of education in my home country I could not get this systematized knowledge whereas here I got a free access to it via the LDU, and now my scientific works have a much better quality.

    Secondly, putting all the resources online will not solve the problem at all. Taking into a consideration that for many students at London Met English is not their native language and therefore formulating a question in a written form appears to be difficult at the early stages as well as understanding the answers, one-to-one sessions are much more effective and may take 20-40 minutes whereas getting the answer via e-mails may take weeks. This will slow the students’ work very much, and the quality of works will fall which will influence the decrease in our already poor rating statistics.

    Last but not least, the LDU is an essential support for those students whose educational background is very poor. University Ambassadors try their best to attract student from migrant families, students whose parents do not have a higher education, to study at London Met. If such a supportive Unit is closed, those students will not be able to cope with their scientific works, they will be disappointed by the organization of London Met and the University Ambassadors will be just wasting their time struggling to attract new students.

    To conclude, the LDU with its highly qualified specialists plays a very important role in the London Met students’ lives. Of course, this Unit has its own problems, but I do not know ANY Unit of our University which would not need to improve its work. The closure of LDU may lead to unpredictable consequences.

    This letter was previously sent to the LDU members, and I was recommended to send it to you too. I believe it is not too late for an active action to stop these unwise steps.

    I hope my words will be heard.

    Best regards,

    Maria Panova, MPA, London Met

  2. I have been a master student in London Met since 2009. I'm from Vietnam so I feel not confident with my English and I'm so afraid that it could affect negatively my study here. However, after taking part in many English skill workshops and using services of Writing center, my English gets better. In my opinion, activities of LDU and Writing center are helpful and important for me. Do not close these departments please,please,please!!!

  3. As one of the many mature students that received so much support from the LDU, I was shocked to discover that the University were even considering its closure.

    When I first started Uni it was a big shock to the system and I needed support not offered by my subject tutors. Fortunately for me the LDU were at hand to work through the problems i was facing with my work at that time. They gave me the confidence I lacked to succeed. That help did not end there as they continued to support me whenever I needed it throughout my degree. I consider them vital to my success at University.

    If the University is to go ahead and close the LDU and Writing Centre then it will be a big blow to its students. I noticed this morning that a campaign on Facebook has already started so lets hope the University take note and see sense before its too late.

    Andy Mitchell commented on http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=414310&c=1

  4. I am a LLB student studying law at London metropolitan university. During October and November I took a course at LDU for Dissertation & Major Project Writing. The course was based on how to write a project. The course pretty much emphasised what standard a project is required at the Undergraduate and Post graduate studies. I found it very useful as I have never got any information before. Just some few tips from the lecture, but not details. In my opinion it would be wrong to close it down, as many students will suffer and not get academic support anywhere in the university. I am currently seeking to do another two courses with the LDU such as the essay writing and a taking exams course, as many students have told me that it improved them a lot after the course. I urge you to make a careful decision in deciding the LDU future. Kinds regards,

    Andi Hoxhaj

  5. As an academic who has liaised closely with the LDU and the Writing Centre over many years, I find this shocking news. The University has large numbers of students registered with the Disabilities and Dyslexia Service with a Specifc Learning Disability (SPLD)such as dyslexia. The support offered by the LDU and the Writing Centre to such students in helping them improve their confidence, their time-management and their academic writing is essential. Students from Faculties like JCAMD (with the highest percentage of SPLD students at London Met) depend on these experienced key additional services and those who take advantage of them see real benefit in terms of improved performance and grades.

  6. LDU, I think great place for international student may be reduce staff but don't close it...

  7. I consulted LDU as an undergraduate and, in only a few sessions, they helped me get my thoughts and ideas together and achieve better marks. I'm still using the techniques I picked up during those sessions as a postgraduate. The experience was invaluable.
    LDU and its staff are an asset to the university and, as far as I know, there are universities aiming to set up similar structures. Why would they even consider closing it? Given the students' background at Londonmet, LDU is essential...

  8. Here we go again! Chopping successful units to enable privatisation.

    My 20 years’ experience teaching Study Skills and Academic Reading and Writing at universities in the UK convinced me that extremely able students (and some staff) might need some support in their academic work, whatever their level of English.

    An entry test cannot predict every difficulty a person may face in academia: academic study is not simply about knowing the language of instruction: it is about the culture and conventions of study in a given discipline.

    The closure of a unit like the LDU places students at a disadvantage, just when universities pay lip service equal opportunities.

    Such closures are all part of the trend towards the privatisation of Higher Education in the UK because students will have to find resources on an individual basis. And privatisation does nothing to widen participation.

    The goal of this decision to close the LDU is clearly to limit participation in learning skills to those students with money. Do we really want to return to education for the privileged elite of 100 years ago?

  9. Good afternoon

    Please do not close the LDU as it offers a vital and important service to the students within the university.
    I have attended a few of their workshops and have sought advice in respect of essay writing. The knowledge and expertise they impart is invaluable.

    Thank you.

    Kirstie Neilson


  10. Please fight to keep our LDU - it has impressive reputation and all library staff here are shocked & stunned at proposed closure - what will our students do without this invaluable support? Much of the learning skills for widening participation carry over to mainstream and improve high flyers performance. Progress with less able students aims for a true democracy where every aptitude is included. In the famous words of William Morris "I do not want art for a few, any more than I want education for a few, or freedom for a few,"

  11. I graduated from London Met in 2009 with a First and I attribute that result solely to the support of the LDU and Writing Centre. I understand the need for cuts as a general principle but I believe the management team have lost their focus on what they seek to achieve through the closures of these two facilities.

    It is an open secret that London Met students generally are on the lower end of the social spectrum and need as much support as possible to achieve the grades that make the university degree worth while. Closing the LDU and Writing Centre is an ill thought out idea for finding financial savings.

    Lecturers are quite stretched on most courses and in my experience my dissertation supervisor was not able to offer me the necessary time and support on a weekly basis to be able to write competently and confidently. That gap was plugged by the LDU and Writing Centre.

    I would urge Malcolm Gillies and his colleagues to consult widely on this matter and see if savings can be found else where.Failure to do so will consign the university to the tier 3 status that we all desperately want to shake off.

  12. I would like to mention that for me as a student at London Met both Ldu and Writting centre helped me a lot.I have a non-Uk degree and Ldu and Writting Centre were the only oportunities to learn from the beginig how to do my coursework, in a very open, friendly and supportive environment,where every question was welcomed and aswered .The flexible courses run by Ldu gave the opportunity to develop my english in an environment that meet the London Met REQUIREMENTS and which according to my opinion other university can provide this '' tailored needs''.Providing supportive materials for essay, crtical reviews, etc was more than helpful and help me save time and this support very often can be provided by the module lectures.
    Closing this departments will affect students performance, as for many of us english is not our first language and the support offered by lectures is general (and many time referral is made to LDU and Writing Centre) not so in detail like the support provided by this departments.

    I am looking forward to use this services in the future!

    Best regards,

    Persida Petean

  13. I am writing about the issue of closing the LDU. Since the past two years at I have been attending the London Metropolitan University, the LDU has been a great support towards my learning development. One of modules is regarding Statistics and since first year I attended the LDU for extra support. I could not have got through my modules if it was not of the help of the LDU support team. I must emphasise that, if it was not for the help of Jerome Gill I would not have got to through my modules. For reason, as a mature student and being out of education for a some time Jerome Gill is very understanding, patient, and he ensures that each member of the group get support.

    The LDU has given me an essential knowledge because my academic background was different from European, and my statistics works have a much better quality. In addition I believe the LDU is an essential support for those students whose educational background is very poor.

    Furthermore I believe that to scrap the LDU would be damaging for a lot of students benefit because; student are depending on the extra help and support that is not able to get from lecturers busy schedule. And this is understandable.

    Please, do reconsider your decision; because; if and when I do need the extra support regarding my coursework I do not where to go. And even if there is somewhere else, I don’t see why student should have to go somewhere else (i.e. in a different environment). I believe student would like to function better emotionally, and psychology within their own environment. Seeing that I am a part of University, I should think that is where I should go for academic support.

  14. Being an international student myself, one of the important things that attracted me to London Metropplitan University was the existence of LDU, because even though my English was not too bad, I still needed the necessary academic foundation in writing skills, therefore, knowing that LDU was there to provide this base and additional help that was necessary, strengthened my decision in making London Metropolitan University my first choice university. During the first days of my first year in London Metropolitan University, I was first looking forward to attending the LDU sessions, since I wanted to ensure that I will have the necessary base and knowledge on how to write a proper academic paper. I attended several sessions, workshops as well as one-to-one sessions. Each one of them has been very useful, productive and effective. (proof is in getting an A on one of my essays) I honestly do think that it is necessary and even crucial to keep the LDU, because I strongly believe that it has a very strong impact on students. As you can see, for me it played a very important role and had a very lasting effect on my further studies. LDU makes a very strong contribution for the students, that if taken away, I'm afraid that it will have a major impact on university and the students. Therefore, please ensure that LDU and the writing centre remains with us as we are in need of them.
    Thanks a lot in advance.
    Leyla Kerimova

  15. Knowing what means not to know what writing is and how you should write correctly just because there was nothing like writing centers where I studied I warn you - don't loose what You have. You may appreciate its benefits but it will be too late.
    Tetiana Fitio

  16. I recently attended the International Writing Centers Association conference in Baltimore, Maryland, in the US. I am a US academic who runs a writing center in Texas, at a large university. I heard about the LDU at London Met from a speaker who had visited it, and I was impressed about what I heard--about the professionalism, the support it lends to many types of students, and the way that UK institutions are reaching out to all types of students to provide essential knowledge they may not have received before university. I hope your administration is not short-sighted, and that the LDU does not close.

  17. I am shocked by the news to close London Met's writing centre. In my opinion, the Write Now CETL is one of the leading initiatives of its kind worldwide. I think I can afford this judgement based on an extensive experience in collaborating with international universities on aspects of writing research and pedagogy. Due to this excellent leadership role of Write Now CETL I invited Kathy Harrington and Peter O'Neill to lecture in the new certificate of advances studies program that I will be starting in 2011 on International Literacy Management. It is my sincere hope and wish that the writing centre at London Met remains open!

    Gerd Bräuer Freiburg (Germany)/Winterthur (Switzerland)

  18. The news that London Met is considering closing down these services shocks and disappoints.
    Closing down learning/writing development services seems to me a short-sighted and reactionary response to any financial issues. Over time a well-developed community of learners, educators, and writers will sustain any university through difficulties and increase the reputation of the institution. I can understand that all extra-curricular services seem like an easy target in straightened times, but this work is integral to learning, not ancillary.
    In addition to the obvious benefits to students and staff, the work contributes to the national conversation and development of better learning and teaching; I have drawn on work created by staff in the Writing Centre to develop new initiatives and better understand issues in academic literacy in UK HE.
    Please reconsider your decision and consider the long-term benefits to students, staff, and the institution, not just the short-term balance sheet.
    Joelle Adams, FHEA

  19. On behalf of the New Zealand Association of Tertiary Learning Advisors (ATLAANZ), I would like to express my surprise and dismay at the pending abolition of the Learning Development Unit at London Met. The unit and its staff are well-known in the field, having contributed to a range of events, publications and online resources over the years.

    International research has shown the contribution of tertiary learning support to student engagement and retention. This contribution is likely to become more - not less - valuable as universities around the world face tightened budgets and increasingly diverse populations of students.

    Tertiary learning support is not to be confused with basic skills. Regardless of the skills students come into university with, they will need to develop a range of new skills in order to study successfully in a tertiary context. Learning Development Units, such as that at London Met, play a vital role in running orientation programmes, creating relevant resources and providing workshops and consultations for students (and, in many cases, academic staff) in order to help them develop as they go through the ongoing challenges of tertiary study.

    These skills are not learnt by osmosis - they have to be taught. Learning Development staff are experts in this area and work in collaboration with academic staff to ensure that students have opportunities and resources to develop these skills in a coherent way. Learning development staff also participate in ongoing research into tertiary learning, which they are ideally placed to do, given their contact with the wide range of students and staff that make up the twentieth-century university. Their research and expertise feeds back into the university through a range of channels, enhancing the professional development of academic staff and stimulating a number of institutional innovations.

    Our organisation recently compiled a set of reports on the impacts of our work on student retention, pass rates and completion (see: http://tinyurl.com/NZlearningsupport). There are numerous such studies from other countries. London Met has a similar diversity of students and learning development needs to many of these institutions and has, in fact, been a leader in the field. It is puzzling and distressing to imagine that London Met could consider throwing away what they have, when research would seem to point in the opposite direction - towards extended learning development provision.

    As representatives of a profession which is growing internationally, we express the sincere wish that London Met reconsiders its proposal to abolish a unit that contributes so much to the success of its students.

    Martin McMorrow, Massey University Auckland - on behalf of the
    ATLAANZ (Association of Tertiary Learning Advisors Aotearoa New Zealand) Executive

  20. I would like to endorse the comments of my colleague, Martin Mc Morrow from Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand. It is hard to believe that a university would think of closing such a unit when they should be thinking of expanding it. At the University of Auckland we are continually working on extending the work of our Learning Centre and our English Language Self Access Centre as we see what a vital role they play in the lives of all our students. All students need guidance as they begin their university studies so that they enjoy an atmosphere of academic excellence and complete their studies. Our experience is that the students who don't access support they need do not stay to complete a degree.

    Janet von Randow
    Diagnostic English Language Needs Assessment (DELNA)
    University of Auckland

  21. I am so sorry to hear this news - and in the year that I attended such an excellent international conference (Writing Development in Higher Education) organised by colleagues in the Writing Centre. I have been very impressed by the work of Kathy and her team and am saddened that London Met is clearly underestimating what it would lose by such action. I hope to establish a Writing Centre at the University of Strathclyde, and have in part been influenced by internationally recognised excellent role models such as this one.

    Dr Christine Sinclair
    Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement
    University of Strathclyde

  22. Dear all
    There is no doubt in my mind about the value of Learning Development activity in a University.
    In a world where communication is the critical issue, the assistance of LD teams is essential in the fostering and facilitation of student learning both from a point of view of achieving excellence and in addressing the challenges for those who have not traditionally entered the hallowed halls of higher education.
    I have watched the LD team at our small campus of University of Wollongong make contributions that influence the pattern of results for individuals, for classses and for cohorts.
    I hope that London University might reconsider the current decision.
    Robbie Collins
    Head of Shoalhaven Campus
    University of Wollongong

  23. Writing Centers are crucial elements of University education, allowing flexible and "just-in-time" learning support for a wide variety of learners and learning needs and styles. I hope the university allows the affected centers to continue their operation.

    Robert Whipple
    Chair, English
    Creighton University

  24. Without the support of the LDU, I would not have passed my first year, and would not be here now. Simple as that.

  25. As a member of the international writing centers community, I am appalled at the decision to close London Met's LDU and Writing Centre. A centre devoted exclusively to issues of student literacy is crucial as the demand for workers with strong communication skills continues to grow. I am also astounded that the university's management team would even consider closing a centre which has brought international attention to the institution. London Met has been at the forefront of the international writing center movement, forging alliances with centers throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The contributions that the London Met staff have made to ongoing dialogue among literacy advocates are immeasurable. This decision, if it stands, will set the university back years, if not decades.

    Kathleen Shine Cain, Ph.D.
    Professor of Writing, Communication Arts & Sciences Department
    Director, Writing Center

  26. As someone who works outside London Metropolitan University, I am unable to comment upon the benefits to the individual students of the work carried out by the LDU and Writing Centre. However, the student comments above clearly indicate the benefits are legion.

    I would like to pick up another very important point: within the sector London Metropolitan University has a good reputation precisely because of the work of the LDU and Writing Centre. For example, in September 2010, Dr Kathy Harrington and Dr Peter O'Neill were the keynote presenters at the Students Writing in Transition Symposium hosted at Nottingham Trent University (NTU). The symposium was attended by a mixture of academics, learning developers, senior managers and students. The previous year, Sandra Sinfield ran a workshop at the same event.

    On both occasions participants were incredibly responsive to the sessions and provided positive feedback about the quality of research, innovation and responsiveness to student needs.

    NTU uses a student academic writing mentors model based largely on the work developed by the WriteNow CETL.

    It may be that having a specialism in something considered to ‘remedial’ is not something to be proud of, but our research with first year students suggests that the issue of transition is a problem for many students. Of course, most do adapt to our different approach to learning, but this process can be greatly helped by the work of teams like the LDU and Writing Centre. The HE sector needs experts in academic writing, we need people who can translate some of our arcane practices for learners who are often uncertain, lacking in confidence and, at times, lacking the maturity to learn in a way that we would want.

    London Metropolitan University has those experts. Your experts have helped other universities to improve how they adapt to the needs of students. Take a look at conferences such as Writing Development in Higher Education, the European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing and Learning Development in Higher Education. London Metropolitan University experts have made significant contributions to all of these areas to the benefit of the University’s academic reputation.

    Finally, many academic staff have neither the time nor the skills required to patiently help a student develop their writing to an appropriate standard. Expecting academic staff to pick up this up is, at best, optimistic given all the other pressures on HE at the moment. This looks like an extremely risky gamble.

    Ed Foster
    Learning Development Team
    Nottingham Trent University