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.

Hth

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

Lucky

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 pa......it 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>

Luckytwo Fri 21-Sep-12 09:35:21

I agree entirely - it's not sustainable, and your worry is certainly a concern. We shall see...

I agree it is certainly fairer to have loans to cover the tuition fees, rather than have to pay them up front....I still have to say though I would also prefer to see a little bit more contact time, especially in the first year, when they are so soon out of school. I guess it's the way of it, and down to the maturity of the person that they don't assume they can spend all day asleep or doing whatever they like.

PurpleGeekyGirl Fri 21-Sep-12 09:53:16

lucky I agree entirely, and my job at the uni I work at is to ensure that we manage induction and transition properly. The biggest issue we have is academic staff not taking responsibility for this aspect and ensuring that they bother to treat students as people not an irritation that gets in the way of research or being lazy beggars. If your child is in the process of applying I would ask to see what the transition programme is, what peer mentoring schemes are available and how students are supported in the first year. Post 92 unis are also usually better at this aspect then the pretentious pre92s or RG ones and I work at a pre-92. Message me if you want any more info smile

jessabell Sun 14-Oct-12 14:15:02

Daughter had 8 hours in first year. Just starting 2nd year now has 10hrs a week. Then has small group work. She has a lot of reading and essay writing to do in between. Her flatmates all said she had a lot of essaywork to do last year. The reason why so few contact hours.

Copthallresident Mon 15-Oct-12 00:14:37

OP I am also surprised at the low level of contact hours for Psychology.

DD is a Scientist just going into her third year and basically has 9 to 5 days except for a half day on Wednesday, with coursework, lab write ups and exams at the end of autumn as well as in the summer term all counting to her degree. She lives with English and History students who have 8 hours contact time (one of the best RG after Oxbridge for English and History) and only had one or two exams last summer term. They do though have essays to write, that count for their degree, and these do require extensive reading and developing to do well, ironically often to a first day of next term deadline and often completed through the night to the 4pm dealine. Her workload is greater but also more spread out.

I am back at uni myself doing a non Science subject with some involvement in teaching, and my personal bugbear is that most RG/ 1994 unis, in most subjects, no longer teach in the third term. DD gets a few revision sessions and four exams but the English and History students may only get a three hour exam - for their £3000. It is when the academics get to focus on their research which is vital to the universities, and of course exams have to be marked, but I do think that with increased fees universities can no longer justify operating what is essentially a two term academic year.

mumblechum1 Mon 15-Oct-12 12:15:20

DS went to an open day last week for Sociology which is 12 hours per week.

GrendelsMum Mon 15-Oct-12 15:07:14

Some students get confused between the minimum number of lectures they must attend and the actual recommended number of lectures - it sounds obvious, but someone posted here about their daughter, who had totally misunderstood a course I know about in detail.

At our University, for example, you could attend 0 hours of lectures per week and just about scrape by with a seminar and a tutorial, but on the same course you could equally well attend 20 hours of lectures per week, 4 group seminars, an individual tutorial, plus 2 or 3 hours of additional language classes, perhaps a weekly drama or creative writing workshop, and so on. You'll pay the same tuition fee either way.

Arcticwaffle Wed 17-Oct-12 14:40:05

8hrs of lectures + tutorials + laboratory time (normal for many psychology degrees) + statistics classes might add up to quite a bit of contact time. Maybe the person who answered wasn't thinking about those aspects of the course?

As someone else says though, fewer contact hours might mean more self-led essays and practicals, which could be more pressured overall.

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 18-Oct-12 09:16:41

It really depends on the course I did vetmed arrive at lecture theatre 9am get brief coffee break 11am. Lunch 1 hour 1 to 2. Back to lecture theatre till 5pm four days a week. Solid 9am to 1pm on Wednesdays.
I then intercalated for a year and studied Agriculture and had around 12 hours per week.

campergirls Thu 18-Oct-12 09:34:48

I'm interested by your comment 'my personal bugbear is that most RG/ 1994 unis, in most subjects, no longer teach in the third term' Cophtallresident. I lecture at an RG university and we do teach in the third term. Attendance falls off drastically though, and in feedback students (esp finalists) are increasingly asking us not to - just to let them focus on preparing for assessments. Students' attitudes to contact time are, in practice, complicated and often contradictory, IME.

Copthallresident Thu 18-Oct-12 15:52:13

campergirls I am sure that is where the pressure to move towards two academic terms came from. Finalists are different but when it has reached the point where a humanities student can have just one three hour exam in May and that is it, I think it has gone too far. DDs peers certainly see that, and they are not in the cohort of increased fees, even as they use the spare time positively, taking a production to Edinburgh, internships etc.

As a mature student on a taught Masters paid for by myself (of course being milked as part of an overly large cohort on the course wink) I was certainly shocked to find the third term was just exams, and a few revision sessions, a process that was over well ahead of the end of term, and I wasn't even assigned a supervisor for my diss until the exams were over! Whether or not you cover the costs of the university experience racking up a debt of £3000 is going to focus students on what they get for their money.

Copthallresident Thu 18-Oct-12 15:53:51

Sorry I obviously meant £3000 for the final term

campergirls Fri 19-Oct-12 15:15:34

It's partly to do with the unholy intermingling of terms and semesters at a lot of British universities, I think. We have two teaching semesters of 12 weeks each, spread over three terms (so in total 24 weeks of teaching, same as Oxford and Cambridge since time immemorial...). Four full weeks of teaching in the third term for both UG and MA students in my department - but as I say it's hard to get the UG students to turn out. If the new fee regime changed that, I'd be pleased!

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