Queensland University of Technology has been caught using recycled teaching materials created by the victims of staffing cuts and, in at least one instance, by an academic that had passed away.
Pre-recorded course content created by sacked or deceased former staff of the University continues to be used in a move that has been labelled by critics as the latest in a line of cost-cutting measures detracting from the quality of education received by students.
Whilst the material is, by virtue of their employment agreements, the legal property of the University, the morality of using materials produced by ex-staff members, particularly those that have passed away, has been questioned.
Despite these questions, QUT re-iterated its “pride” in using content created by an “award-winning and highly regarded lecturer who sadly has passed.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic necessitating an exponential increase in online learning, there are concerns that the use of older materials is not only a risk to the engagement and standard of content university students receive, particularly as time goes on, but that this reliance will see universities make large numbers of staff redundant, while continuing to use their recorded lecture material.
The increased prevalence of pre-recorded content has fostered concerns amongst staff that universities are aiming to greatly reduce compensated hours in favour of using material that it no longer has to pay to use, as well as reducing the perceived need to retain larger numbers of staff.
In May, students at QUT protested budget and staffing cuts made by the University administration, claiming they represented unacceptable reductions to their academic experience, and QUT staff have turned out (virtually) in their hundreds to sign a petition against cost cutting measures and any future losses of jobs.
This petition and the continued use of these older materials come as QUT recorded a surplus of $23 million in 2020, with QUT Vice Chancellor, Margaret Shiel, being the highest paid VC in the state, making $1.2 million that year.
A spokesperson for the University of Sydney implied that it would not follow a similar path to that seen at QUT, commenting that whilst the University has “advised staff that consistent use of prior lecture recordings is not an acceptable practice,” it “[doesn’t] prohibit the use of selected video material from previous years to supplement interactive classes.”
The spokesperson did, however, note that, as with QUT, “under our intellectual property policy, the University maintains ownership of teaching materials produced by staff.”