"Filthy hippies" have been causing stress for Imperial's communications division over the weekend, but they have been unable to generate as much bad PR as a revelation by Dr Bernard Lamb: first-class Imperial students are unable to spell, or operate a spell checker.
Lamb, a Reader in Genetics and member of the Queen's English Society, has attracted coverage in the national media in advance of his next publication "Errors in the English of highly selected undergraduates". The paper, which is to appear in the forthcoming journal of the QES, reveals how horrifically Imperial students butcher the English language.
Although some would put the poor grasp of English down to the sheer number of overseas students, Lamb's experience shows a lack of understanding amongst UK-educated students too. The Observer carried an example written by a "UK-born, UK-educated student who has just been awarded a first-class degree". This student handed in this gem, despite all of the mistakes being within reach of a spell checker:
"It initats a undisired non-specific response in mamammals"
The following example, this time with perfect spelling, came from another student:
"insemination of these cows at the age of 3 with their fathers seamen"
Of this final example, Lamb wrote: "There should be an apostrophe in fathers, three should be written as a word, and as for seamen ..."
According to Lamb an English tutor at Oxford has also complained about poor grammar among students, revealing failings in English teaching throughout the education system. Primary school teachers have been sent guides reminding them how to use apostrophes and differentiate between easily confused words such as two, to and too.
ICU has agreed that there is a problem with the standard of English within the student body, but has expressed concern at the way in which the point was made. Deputy President (Education & Welfare) Kirsty Patterson gave the following statement:
"While we do agree that there is a problem with declining standards of written and spoken English throughout the education sector, we still have reservations over Dr Lamb's decision to openly publicise this specific cohort of Imperial College London undergraduates. Our primary concern at this time is to ensure that the 75 students cited in the journal have not been made readily identifiable, even within their peer groups.
"Imperial College Union will be approaching students from Dr. Bernard Lamb's tutorials to measure the impact that this will have on their continued teaching and learning. We appreciate that Dr. Lamb's intentions are not malicious and that his objective is to highlight falling standards of English but feel that this is an inappropriate use of privileged information regarding nationality, ancestry and country of birth. We cannot see any positive benefit that this will have on the students under Dr. Lamb?s tutorage and are concerned about damage that may have been caused to his future relationship with students following a perceived breach of trust."
She continued that Lamb's research had "raised concerns over the level of feedback students are receiving on their work and the processes that are in place to target these key skills as part as their development as Imperial College London undergraduates."
Warning: this article criticises those with poor spelling and grammar, so will probably contain a high level of mistakes in those areas. This is nature's way of saying "don't be smug". Anyone correcting the mistakes will be traced and sent to the climate camp.