.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Demanding value for money

Talking of value for money I note that the new marketplace in education created by Tony Blair's tuition fee regime is having unexpected consequences in terms of the expectations of students. Undergraduates are to draw up charters detailing what they expect from universities in return for their fees - including having more time with lecturers.

The move follows a National Union of Students' poll of more than 3,000 students at 40 universities which reveals anger among first-years that they receive the same education as their older peers, but pay far more. In return for their fees of up to £3,000 a year, they want guarantees that they will be well taught.

The 'student rights charters' would act like a warranty. 'Do vice-chancellors seriously think that in a year that has seen fees increase they can cut back on contact time, provision and resources?' asked NUS vice-president Wes Streeting. 'It is unfortunate that students feel like customers, but it is an inevitable result of the system pushing the costs of university on to them.'

The NUS will urge individual student unions to negotiate the agreements with their universities. First to be targeted will be those planning to ask undergraduates to sign contracts promising to turn up for lectures. Now it is their turn to deliver, the students will argue.

It is not clear how this will pan out in Wales where Welsh students attending colleges in the Principality have their fees subsidised by the Assembly. However half of the students in Welsh Higher Institutions are from England and they are paying the full £3,000 fee so I suspect pressure on colleges will be as equally intense here as in England.

If this movement makes the Government think again about lifting the cap on tuition fees in 2009 then it would have done a lot of good.
have their fees subsidised by the Assembly

Really? By the Assembly?
In that the policy was forced upon the Government by the opposition parties and we are still a corporate body, then yes, by the Assembly.
Surely its good that students are now able to demand standards from their university.
Wasn't it Adam Smith who was dismayed by the quality of teaching at Oxford? The reason was the lecturers were not payed by the students, so unlike in Scotland where they were payed directly, there was no incentive for the lecturers to give good lectures, or for the students to demand a good education.

I think this is a good move, and one of the good side effects of tuition fees.
This consequence was unpredicted by any means. Virtually every advocate of fees consider it a highly desirable side effect that will lead to competition and differentiation between universities with different institutions making different appeals according to their circumsatances. Some will focus on teaching, others on the research side. Overall, a greater balance of the majority of the system toward focussing on teaching would be no bad thing.

It has long been suggested that the only reason anybody of real talent goes somewhere other than Oxbridge is the undergraduate teaching requirement at those two institutions. Not every polytechnic lecturer needs to be publishing every year.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?