Chartering a smoother course
I read with interest Jim Parlour ("Charters which change little", Opinion, THES December 30). While I would agree that the Department for Education and the National Union of Students charters emphasise pleasing students with no corresponding counterbalance of their responsibilities and obligations he should be careful not to decry the efforts of others.
Liverpool John Moores University was the first HE institution to produce an institutional charter 18 months ago and the benefits to both students and institution are slowly emerging. In our charter we provide clear statements of what students can expect of the university and what in return is expected of students. Our student charter aims to provide accurate, timely and easily accessible information to enhance and facilitate choice for all our students so that they know exactly what is being delivered and what they must do in return.
JMU's charter has brought to the attention of everyone in the institution our stated aim of putting our students' needs first and is providing a vehicle for monitoring and evaluating the constantly changing needs of our student population.
Mr Parlour claims that students have special rights as students (as opposed to ordinary citizens) then says that they do not have rights if they fail the test of legal enforceability. If there is a legally enforceable right then that right is adequately protected. It is the function of the student charter to address those aspects of student life not covered by legally enforceable rights without affording them true legal status. The charter is not intended to be a legally enforceable contract that gives the student (purely by being a student) rights that can be enforced outside the institution. Rather the charter is a means of formulating a proper code of conduct.
Student charters should be seen as an integral part of all forward-thinking educational establishments. They should not be trivialised by those who have nothing better to offer.
Maureen A. Blackmore Head of Student Charter and Advice Liverpool John Moores University