If a professor is scheduled to teach two hours, only one day a week, but instead he only teaches one hour, one day a week - in an extremely rushed manner - and tells his students he has to leave, is there anything that students can do about this behavior, if the professor continues in this way?

Let's assume this professor also doesn't post any supplementary notes at all, doesn't require a textbook, doesn't assign suggested background reading, but assigns a few hard homework problems per week.

Let's also assume that he is tenured.

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    Complain with the head of department or with whoever has the responsibility of the courses. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 7:01
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    Based on existing answers, the correct approach is going to vary by academic culture. What country are you in? Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 12:08
  • Did the professor offer some explanation? Does this happen consistently? For one course or for various courses?
    – quid
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 15:27
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    While I sympathise with the OP, there are many factors which could affect how one views the phenomena in the 2nd para. Some of the best lecturers I had did all of those things; so did some of the worst. I am therefore downvoting the question purely to encourage the OP to provide more context, e.g. what is set out in the course syllabus, or in some kind of "Undergraduate Handbook" assuming one exists
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 15:41
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    There is an opposite question... what to do if the instructor often runs far beyond the allotted time...
    – GEdgar
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 0:23

4 Answers 4


As @Nate Eldredge this, how this is received is going to vary widely based on academic culture.

Let me assume that this is a course at a US university, and that it is an "official" course: that is, one that students register for, receive a grade for at the end, and the instructor gets some credit for teaching. In this context, the practice would probably not be acceptable to many key people in the university. At most US universities there is a notion of credit hours: there is a positive number of "credits" a student gets for a course (most frequently 1-4) and also a number of hours per week that the course meets. Now (by widely agreed upon convention rather than cosmic truth, of course) there is a fixed conversion factor for this: at my university, 50 minutes of class time per week = 1 credit.

An instructor who only meets for one hour out of a scheduled two hours is risking the disapproval of the registrar, other departmental faculty including the head, and the students of the course. The registrar is probably going to be unhappy because it looks like the course is trying to cheat the system: if everyone decided to claim twice the number of credit hours that they actually met, it would cause absolute chaos for (especially undergraduate) programs. The departmental faculty are also going to be unhappy (to say the least) about this, on the one hand because the number of credit hours usually figures into the teaching load -- the standard departmental teaching load basically amounts to faculty teaching so-and-so many hours per week (on average; loads can vary from one semester to the next). Claiming twice as much as you're doing is certainly not okay. And of course, most faculty want courses to be taught well, and it is hard for me to think of clearer evidence that my colleague is not doing a good job with his teaching than that he is only meeting for half the scheduled time. Finally, it is likely that the students are going to feel shortchanged ("halfchanged"?), and in light of all the stuff above, I don't see a satisfactory rejoinder to a student who feels that way: on the contrary, I think they're right.

So what to do? I would suggest beginning by bringing it up to a departmental faculty member. Good places to start are: (i) the instructor of the course, if you feel comfortable, (ii) the department head, (iii) whichever faculty member you feel closest to in the department (e.g. your academic advisor). For such conversations, it is important to stay calm and factual. Be willing to proceed in several steps. Definitely indicate an awareness that there seems to be some kind of real mismatch here, and if necessary you might want to mention that university administrators like the registrar might be concerned about it as well. (Again, I honestly think they would, and departmental faculty should know that they would. So this is more like a reality check than a threat of escalation.)

Another idea: can you ask some other faculty member (or person in a position of authority) to visit the course? Anyone who shows up is certainly going to notice a two hour course ending after only one hour. On the other hand, they may well talk to the instructor before they show up, which might result in the instructor's taking the full class time. Which is what you want, of course. If that happens once and then he goes back to halftime, then it gives you an easy opening to speak to him about what's going on.

I want to end by saying that this really is cultural. What you're describing sounds like quite an extreme case, but there is variation between US universities and personnel at those universities on the practice of ending early. It is not unheard of for instructors and students to feel that they have done all they need to do in a certain course meeting and thus end early: they may even feel great about doing so. For me personally, over the course of almost two decades of instruction at US universities, I have moved steadily in the direction of thinking that for a three credit course, the very least I owe the students is 150 minutes a week of me in the classroom. I remember though that I taught one undergraduate course at my institution, pretty soon after I got there, and for various reasons I decided to cancel three of the 50 minute class meetings, including the last one (excluding the final exam and review sessions for the final), because I was interested in presentations given by graduate students in a different course that met at the same time. The present me finds the past me's behavior slightly outrageous...So indeed, some variation on how this is perceived exists!

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    Another group that would be unhappy about this would be the university's accreditation body. A single case would probably not rise to their attention, but if this happened a lot, it could be a concern the next time the university's accreditation is up for renewal. So this would be additional motivation for The Powers That Be to get it fixed. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 14:59
  • Couple of nitpicks. In my experience credits are not always integers (e.g., labs are often 1.5 credits). Some professors use class time for group work or writing. I think you have to look at the teaching as a whole and not just when students are allowed to leave.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 15:00
  • @Nate: Agree. I had another sentence expanding on "absolute chaos" in that direction, but I took it out for brevity (believe it or not). StrongBad: sure, I removed "integer". And sure, class time can be used for other stuff, as you say. But giving only lectures and ending early looks bad. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 15:13
  • Many accrediting bodies specify a minimum ratio of (wall clock) contact hours per term to semester (or quarter) credit hours. I think that 750 contact minutes (AKA 12.5 contact hours) to the semester credit hour is not atypical for lecture and discussion type classes. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 23:51

You're paying tuition fees (either personally, through a sponsor, scholarship, government taxes etc.) and not getting all of the education those fees should pay for.

Make a complaint to the appropriate body. If you feel at risk of irking the prof's wrath then do so via student union/representative; alternatively, go to the Head of Department and tell them it's confidential.

In your complaint be specific: one what exact dates did lectures end early, at what time. Ask other students to support complaint as well - though in my view keep it to one or two students you trust, you don't want it snowballing into something messy.

Good luck.

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    Why does tuition enter into the equation at all? If a student has a scholarship and thus doesn't pay tuition, or if the tuition at that university is free, wouldn't they be able to complain too?
    – user9646
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 9:27
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    In may parts of Europe, undergraduate education is free and universities are paid from the government (taxpayers' money). But even then, the professor is not giving the students the education they deserve.
    – Alexandros
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 10:26
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    For US universities, there is typically no "student representative / union" that would be able to intervene in a situation like this. The department head would be the best option. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 12:18
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    The modified version of the first paragraph still misses the point, and might not apply. It is not unheard of that courses are taught benevolently.
    – quid
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 15:25
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    @jakebeal Most students don't pay taxes either. Really, I don't see the point of mentioning tuition at all.
    – user9646
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 15:54

Crucially missing: Out of how many class meetings, how many times has this happened and what exactly did your instructor offer as the reasons at the time? Is it possible he actually does have a good reason, even if it's not one he's willing to disclose to the entire class? Similarly re: the textbook, etc., what does the syllabus say?

Were I in your shoes, I can appreciate why you might feel uncomfortable directly confronting your instructor about his short lectures, which seems to be your main complaint. I don't think you should talk to other students and I don't think you should discuss your concerns with other instructors. It's not really their business to get involved in students' complaints about how other instructors run their courses and doing so can easily cause hard feelings and may even draw a rebuke from their chair.

I think you should speak to your department chair, preferably in his or her office, not by email. Do not oversell your case. If he cut his lecture short exactly twice out of 6 lectures and one time was only short by 15 minutes, don't get caught overselling this as somehow "an hour short all the time". Try to avoid subjective complaints like "seemed rushed" unless you can explain what you mean with an example, e.g., "he cut off questions on DeMorgan's Theorem, saying he didn't have time". Avoid claims that "everyone" is upset that seem to imply you're out there rabble-rousing. This is your observation and that's all matters.

Be specific: This is what happened on these dates, you're offering what you intend as constructive criticism you hope can lead to some improvement. But you're uncomfortable directly confronting your instructor and you're asking for some confidential help.

I can pretty much promise you that your department chair will have a conversation with your instructor, your name will not be disclosed and that if there is some genuine substance to your complaint, the problem will get fixed. But be prepared to learn there could be a pretty good reason for his behavior you don't know about, e.g., a family crisis. Also be aware: if your chair finds you've made a frivolous or exaggerated complaint or that there's another side to this you failed to mention, that might also attract his or her attention. These things can boomerang.

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    Gosh, when the OP says that the instructor ends the class one hour early, I certainly took that to mean "all the time", not "two of our six times". You're right that that makes a big difference! Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 19:40
  • Thanks so much, @NicoleHamilton - I sought out more advanced students, who all reported similar experiences with this prof, so I think it's essentially a "take it or leave it" kind of deal. I'll stick with the course and will try to adapt to his teaching style, which I've rationalized to be "contemporary" :)
    – user58865
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 22:58

In university education, the goal is not to spend a certain number of hours in a classroom. Courses and university degrees have certain learning objectives, and if there is a way to reach the learning objectives more efficiently without spending so much time sitting in the lecture hall, this is usually a good thing. It is perfectly possible to have a very good course with 0 hours of lectures and plenty of homework.

However, if the course arrangements are not helping you to reach the learning objectives, then you can simply give feedback on the course. Most universities have implemented some form of a course feedback system. If this is not the case at your university, then this is a much bigger and a more important issue.

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    Philosophically this may be true. But for US universities, there actually usually is a requirement for a course to have a certain number of "contact hours", depending on the type of course and credits earned. It would be possible to have a course with 0 lectures and all homework, but it would have to be listed (in transcript and catalog) as "correspondence" or "independent study" or something similar; describing it as a "lecture course" would be incorrect. This is something that accreditation bodies check rather carefully, for instance. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 12:04
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    Also, in my experience, course feedback usually isn't collected until the end of the course. Leaving feedback there might help prevent the professor doing this in the future, but it wouldn't help the OP personally. Issues that need to be fixed during the course need to be raised through other channels. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 12:06
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    @NateEldredge: "Contact hours" could mean very many things besides sitting in a lecture hall. It might be e.g. sessions in which the course staff helps students with their assignments. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 12:11
  • Potentially, but these sessions would have to be scheduled and set on the syllabus. The OP didn't offer any suggestion that this is the case. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 12:15
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    I don't see any basis for assuming that. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 12:20

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