Number of teaching hours at university?

(37 Posts)
mrsrhodgilbert Wed 19-Sep-12 13:27:04

My dd is taking a year off after A levels to consider her options and is currently working to save some money. We took her to a local university open day last week to hear about their psychology course and asked about the amount of time students are actually taught. The answer was 4 'topics' were taught each semester with 2 hours of lectures each plus some tutorials. So, 8 hours per week formal teaching time. I am interested to know how this compares with what your offspring are experiencing and if they are into year 2/3 of a course with this level of teaching how they are finding it? My feeling is that this sounds like very little but I would like to know how common it is. Thank you.

Theas18 Wed 19-Sep-12 13:31:28

I know! It sounds awful for 3k doesn't it!

However (DD1 doing history) arts courses are not intensively tutored like school or science courses. There is supposed to be reading/independent study that may not ever be assessed until/unless it happens to crop up in an exam.

That's a terribly adult aspect to learning that is really hard to grasp at 1-/19/20. So tempting to lie in, chat to mates, go to the cinema etc abd a tricky balance to strike.

There was thought about compressing courses like this into 2yrs as the hours of teaching could fit in

mrsrhodgilbert Wed 19-Sep-12 17:01:51

There is another local university that is offering 2 year more intensive courses now, but she hates the city and won't consider moving there. She has a point. The university we visited is not one of the RG or equivalent and I wonder if those institutions offer more teachiing time. It is a question of balancing the 9K fee at a smaller, newer university with future life chances if she doesn't get a degree. I'm sure we're not alone in this dilemma but the small amount of teaching is a bit shocking.

webwiz Wed 19-Sep-12 17:52:52

I'm surprised that Psychology has so few contact hours - in the olden days when I did it there were lectures, seminars, tutorials and practicals. In the first year we also had to take additional options from other subjects (I did some Zoology and Anthropology as well).

For Arts subjects there is supposed to be lots of additional reading and private study whereas sciences tend to have more of a "taught" element. DD1 does Biology at university and DD2 Maths and they both had 20+ hours contact time in their first years.

I have been surprised to hear the experience of some of my friends DCs - one had 2 hours a week contact course for an Art course and another 7 hours a week for an Ecology and conservation course with all the practical experience organised by the students themselves over the summer.

creamteas Wed 19-Sep-12 18:24:38

At my uni, psychology students usually have an average of 15 contact hours a week. The rest is/should be independent learning.

In my experience, RG uni's offer less not more teaching.

Bluestocking Wed 19-Sep-12 20:31:21

It's important to remember that the fees aren't directly related to the amount of contact time. "Tuition fees" is a bit of a misleading term - it's actually a contribution to all the university's costs, which (along with all the other sources of income universities have) allows the university to conduct all its activities. For example, I know that one large Russell Group university's (very nice) campus costs about a million pounds a week to maintain - so the student fees of £9k for the new cohort of about 4,000 students, which brings in about £36 million per year, doesn't even cover the cost of maintaining the campus. And student need/want a well-stocked, well-maintained library which is open for long hours - that costs. As do modern lecture theatres, computer labs, sports facilities, etc etc, not to mention the incredibly high costs of running specialist facilities for scientific and technical research.
Theas18 is absolutely right in saying that any arts/humanities/social science course is going to rely on students doing many hours of independent study every week. Sadly, all too many students skimp on this, complain about the lack of contact time, and wonder why they don't do particularly well in exams and assessments.
Sorry if this sounds jaundiced - Freshers Week is in full swing and some of the attitudes I'm encountering make me feel a bit despondent.

sashh Thu 20-Sep-12 03:10:16

It's uni not school. Students are supposed to be 'self directed learning', not actually being taught as such.

mooseloose Thu 20-Sep-12 06:47:24

We looked at engineering and one uni was 25 hours work a week...

xkcdfangirl Thu 20-Sep-12 06:56:56

What bluestocking and sashh said.

Your DD has another 60+ years of life ahead of her where she's not going to be getting any "teaching" time at all but if she has a love of learning she will want to continue learning nevertheless. University should be about gaining the skills and confidence to see you through the rest of your life able to teach yourself whatever you need to know in whatever situation you find yourself. If you seek a course with maximum contact time and spoon feeding of exam facts as per school, when is she going to start gaining those skills?

PurpleGeekyGirl Thu 20-Sep-12 07:00:32

Each 10 credits of assessment needs 100 hours of learning. Most unis do 120 credits per year so this equates to about 40 hours a week of required study. However not all of this will be contact time as one of the most important aspects of being at Uni is independent study. Science courses etc have more apparent contact time due to labs and tutorials.


ArthurShappey Thu 20-Sep-12 07:07:32

For Physics at a RG unit we had 26 hours but 4 were lab, 2 were computer lab and 2 were tutorial, so 18 hours lectures.

If I remember we're my journalism flat mate had 8 hours in total, my optometrist flat mate 24 and my psychology one 14. I believe it's more subject variable than uni variable. Physics and Optometry have less self directed learning and require more teaching as it were.

I you're daughter's anything like my psychology friend she'll have plenty of hours to put in herself.

Sirzy Thu 20-Sep-12 07:12:16

That sounds very little for pshychology. I am just going into my 2nd year and last year I did 15 hours as taught. Don't forget though the taught hours make up just a small amount of the work that is actually done.

fussychica Thu 20-Sep-12 14:03:04

DS has about 14 on a European Languages course-about 4 per language and 2 for other modules. He is finding it fairly easy going so far. Lots of his friends on other courses have far less though a couple have more. Seems to depend on course rather than Uni.

ajandjjmum Thu 20-Sep-12 14:12:18

DS has always had around 20 hours studying Physics, but it's loads more than most of his friends.

mrsrhodgilbert Thu 20-Sep-12 16:06:52

Thank you for your views. Varied as usual. Bluestocking, thanks for your reasoned post and I understand the distinction between paying for the course and paying for the running of the institution. I also understand the different approach to learning at university and I do not expect her to be spoonfed. For those who have actually offered examples of what you have experienced I appreciate the time you taken to respond, that's all I wanted.

Luckytwo Thu 20-Sep-12 22:45:00

My daughter has started studying English at university. Her timetable is 4 hours of lectures per week, and she is waiting to learn how many hours of tutorials she might have. I expect it will be another 4 , so in total 8 hours contact time per week. hmm

I understand that they are supposed to be adults and there is a need for independent study, but tbh we could fit that into a day per week shock

Can it really be worth £9K pa ?

sashh Fri 21-Sep-12 07:06:21


You are not paying for tuition by the hour, you are paying for the library, the admin, places to study, toilets, cafes etc.

English is one of those subjects where a lot of it cannot be 'taught' as such.

If a uni wanted to up their contact hours they could do it by having all students come into a lecture hall with a copy of the text they are currently reading and all read it in the same room, but would it make the course any better?

It is the quality of the teaching you need to look at.

nameuschangeus Fri 21-Sep-12 07:08:56

I would say that for a non vocational course (ie not primary teaching or nursing) 8 hours is about average for the first year IME.

mummytime Fri 21-Sep-12 07:25:44

For Science or Engineering it used to be up to 30 hours a week, 15 hours of labs, 3 hours of tutorials or seminars, 12 hours of lecturers. But there was also about 30 hours at least of self study, but then the Tuition fee is massively subsidised compared to the cost. I would ask questions about how accessible lecturers are, are there tutorial, how many how often, are there office hours?

When I went my DH had about 4 - 8 hours a week doing Law. This was because they had so much background reading and essays to write. I dd maths and had about 16 - 24 hours a week but we had no background reading or essays and overall we worked about the same amount of hours per week I'd say.

Luckytwo Fri 21-Sep-12 07:34:47

I understand what I am paying for completely. And I know that when my son started three years ago, he was paying for exactly the same things, but it was £3k is such a huge hike in the cost which is difficult to reconcile.

Bluestocking Fri 21-Sep-12 08:33:53

Hi Luckytwo - the total amount universities received for each student who started before 2012 was made up of £3000 fees plus a certain amount of funding, which varied according to the subject the student was studying, from the relevant Higher Education Funding Council (HEFC) - so if the university is in England, it's HEFCE who supported the students. What's happened with students starting in 2012 and afterwards is that there is little or no money coming from HEFC, and the total amount to support the student comes from either the student themselves (in the case that they pay the fees upfront) or from the Student Funding bodies, in the more usual case that they take out a loan for the fees.
The actual amount received by the university for each student has not increased, it's just the source of the funding. And actually, you could say that since most of the money to pay the fees is loaned to the students by the government, that the source hasn't actually changed either - what has changed is that students are now under an obligation to pay back the loans they received to pay their fees.
Does that help? Working at a university, I think it's very, very important that students (and parents) understand that the universities aren't suddenly in possession of £9000 for each student instead of £3000 - the money we actually have to teach the students (and do everything else) has not actually increased.

PurpleGeekyGirl Fri 21-Sep-12 08:41:17

Just adding to what blue has said too, the numbers of students we are allowed to recruit has also decreased so overall the total amount of money we have coming in has decreased, in an arena of people feeling that they are paying more and therefore expecting more. Due to the way the b*stard government thrust this upon us it's been very difficult for people who don't work in a uni to see what has happened.

Luckytwo Fri 21-Sep-12 08:49:04

Thank you Bluestocking and PurpleGeekyGirl....I guess it just seems a shame that my son has now £20K worth of debt (and lol no job sad) while my daughter will end up with maybe £40K .

Mr Clegg's stupid little apology set to music won't persuade me that it's all ok angry I was sorely tempted to persuade my daughter not to bother going, but then I realised that if she doesn't get a job/doesn't earn very much/takes loads of maternity leave she will never have to pay it back. If everybody thinks like that how will this policy have achieved what the government wanted ?

PurpleGeekyGirl Fri 21-Sep-12 08:55:02

imho the funding model is unsustainable. Totally and utterly. They have set up a massive debt that won't start to be repaid for at least three years, and then only at a minimum rate so it will take decades to recoup the costs of even just one student attending. I can't see it lasting tbh... BUT the system (imho) is now fairer than the previous one as it means you don't have to find and pay money up front like you did a few years ago, it's more akin to the system I had where you got a grant and a loan, albeit for living costs not for tuition.

I only just finished paying back my meagre £10k student debt last year as I was only earning over the threshold for the last 5 or so years. Before then I was either under and able to defer or not earning much and not paying much back per month. The new system is essentially a graduate tax and I wish they'd had the balls to say that from the outset. My biggest worry is that in another few years the treasury will see the mistake that has been made and force us to adopt an Australian/American model where only the rich can afford to study full time at a uni of their choice and have a college fund for it, and the other 99% of the population get lumbered with only have their local uni to attend (not that we don't have a good spread of good unis across the country but choice should be a factor in what you do and where you go).

<rant over>

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