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COMMENT: Are students getting value for money?

Posted on Tuesday, 7 May by

Value for money students

Contact time is the time spent with tutors in lectures and seminars. English students at the University of Sussex will on average have up to 8 hours a week, compared to Engineering students who will have double this amount. But with students across the board paying the same tuition fees each year, is it fair that some students are getting more support from tutors than others?

English Literature student Bridie says that she gets 7 contact hours a week and feels that it is way too little. She notes how unfair it is that she is paying exactly the same as students who get double this amount and that this seems pretty unfair.

On the other hand, English Language student Isabella at the University of Sussex who has the same hours notes she is “very satisfied” with the contact time she has. She says that she receives a lot of reading and coursework, so the limited contact time gives her more time to prioritise her assessed pieces of work. She also says that students can visit tutors in their office hours to seek more support, so the option of having more time to gain insightful guidance from tutors is there.

Subjects like English tend to advocate a self-teaching approach, to encourage independent studying in hope to yield unique perspectives and viewpoints from students, but this can sometimes lead into a complete self-teaching approach, resulting in a bare minimum of support from tutors.

For instance, Media student Bella at Bournemouth University says her timetable is temperamental, but has recently only had two to three hours a week – has this ‘self-teaching’ approach been taken too far? Two to three hours seems like an incredibly short for the amount that students pay. She explains that it seems ridiculous as she has too much spare time.

Maths student Zainab at the University of Bristol says she has 15 hours a week and is content with her hours, as she finds contact time is crucial to her course and is getting her money’s worth. Biomedical student Alex has similar hours and also shares the same views on the importance of contact time to her course.

Some students have even said that the limited hours they have are not met with the expected standards they should be at. One Media student at the University of Sussex explains that for the limited contact time he has, the course seems to be very stretched out. He explains how his contact hours are not even essential. “The seminars are poorly organised – by tutors who aren’t qualified to teach – and lectures are a chance to daydream as oppose to work.” He further shows his dismay at Universities for “picking up a lot of money” but not providing the quality or quantity of service that would have been expected.

Understandably, it seems as if some students feel at a disadvantage compared to those who have considerably more contact time and this is something that Universities should consider. Why should all students pay the same amount of fees if they are not all receiving the same level of support?

And if the contact time they have encourages independent study, what are students actually paying for?

Yasmin Codron is an Online Researcher and Marketing Assistant for The Graduate Recruitment Bureau. Her work involves writing articles to support graduates and students.

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Yasmin Codron

Yasmin Codron

Columnist at SQ Magazine
20-year-old student in English Language at the University of Sussex. Online Researcher and Marketing Assistant at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau.

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