This week, we revealed that students are getting a patchy deal when it comes to the way they’re taught. Would more contact time with lecturers make their degrees better value for money, or is there another solution?
Our joint report, with the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), analysed the experiences of 26,000 full-time undergraduates. It found some massive inconsistencies in higher education, and led our Senior Policy Adviser, Louisa Darian, to ask: are students getting value for money?
We asked the same question on Twitter and got a deluge of responses. Andy (@AndyVale) had little contact time and says it shouldn’t come with such a high price tag:
@whichconvo I would categorically tell someone not to spend £9k a year on an English degree. Loved it, but most of your time is reading.
— Andy Vale (@AndyVale) May 15, 2013
But Christine (@northernlass73) thinks a degree can still be worthwhile, regardless of contact time:
@whichconvoYou can love your course and have little contact time. My OU degree was like that. Its value for money if it inspires you.
— Christine (@northernlass73) May 15, 2013
Are degrees a consumer item?
In her Convo, Louisa argued that ‘there must be an investigation into the huge variations in the academic experience that we have revealed, and more transparency to ensure students can get the information they need’.
Graeme agreed, saying that degrees have become another consumer item:
‘Now that fees are no longer dependent on the subject area (sciences traditionally high, humanities lower), and students are aware of some of the education cost, then there is now consumer pressure for improvement. Transparency of information is to be welcomed.’
Let’s improve lecturers
Much of the discussion here on Which? Conversation centered around the quality of the lecturers, with Malcolm R questioning their motivation:
‘I wonder […] whether there are sufficient well-motivated lecturers to provide this teaching effectively. My children’s experience of college was of poor teaching, badly prepared, and frequent absence of scheduled lecturers.’
Anne Booth, who has taught as a sessional lecturer, says that there aren’t enough permanent lecturers employed – and she gets this week’s Comment of the Week:
‘The universities are too keen to get student numbers up without investing in staff and resources to deal with this. Permanent, well qualified and motivated lecturers are vastly overworked so that they cannot physically deliver their best, and [then] sessional lecturers are drafted in, often at very short notice, and told to take up the slack.’
Graham (@grahamburdge on Twitter) agrees:
@whichconvo Lecturers want 2 share their subject w students.Can’t do it properly if there are 2 few staff 2 allow enough time w students.
— Graham (@grahamburdge) May 15, 2013
Wavechange has also worked as a lecturer and believes that student support – in different guises – may be the way forward:
‘Student support can be as important as contact time, […] and does not have to be face-to-face. Universities now use custom-designed websites called virtual learning environments. It’s time to move on to facilitating learning in other ways, but what we need is evolution and not revolution.’
What’s your experience? Are you glad you aren’t a student today faced with high fees and poor information about the course content? Or if you’re currently a student, how do you decide which courses are worth the money?