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AIBU to think that for £3,000 per term...

(145 Posts)
OneHandFlapping Fri 19-Oct-12 15:13:27

DS should get more than 40 hours of lectures and 24 hours of tutorials at university?

If he went to a private school, he would get 25 hours of lessons a week for a similar sum.

Why exactly are we now paying unis such massive tuition fees? I imagine they make a profit on students now, which seems wrong.

TiAAAAARGHo Fri 19-Oct-12 15:19:11

Only comments I will make:

1. The fees only let universities break even. That is why universities love overseas students (full fees paid) and why home students have been referred to for years as "the charitable end of the sector".
2. You read a subject at university, which is guided by tutors, you are not spoon fed it like at school.

FredFredGeorge Fri 19-Oct-12 15:19:59

YABU university is not school, students are supposed to learn, not be taught. There's a difference.

LaQueen Fri 19-Oct-12 15:23:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

grovel Fri 19-Oct-12 15:24:32

FredFredGeorge, that's true but an Engineering student gets 6 times more tuition time than a Politics student and they're paying the same.

afussyphase Fri 19-Oct-12 15:27:07

Universities are not making profits from these enormous fees. The HE budget was cut 80% and fees had to be raised to keep courses running. i think it's terrible - but in some sense, "we" voted it in by voting Conservative ... and the Lib Dems let it happen.

OneHandFlapping Fri 19-Oct-12 15:29:33

I'm not complaining about students being expected to be independent learners. I went to uni myself, and understand the process. I just want to know why we are paying so much for them to do it.

Someone needs to look at exactly what is being paid for by tuition fees because I suspect they are being used to subsides a great deal of non- undergraduate related expenditure.

Undergraduates should not be treated as cash cows by the universities.

WaitingForMe Fri 19-Oct-12 15:30:31

I read Politics. I didn't need the tuition hours that the Engineering students had but would maintain we had the same standard of education at my university - it was appropriate for the course.

TheLaineyWayIsEssex Fri 19-Oct-12 15:33:16

The University isn't making any more money than in previous years - just the source of the fees has changed.

Jins Fri 19-Oct-12 15:33:32

Fees were introduced initally by a Labour government IIRC. One of the first things Tony Blair did.

I objected then and I object now.

OneHandFlapping Fri 19-Oct-12 15:36:57

The university may not be making any more money, but what is it spending it on?

Undergraduates should not have to pay more than the actual cost of their admission and tuition. I want to know what else they are paying for.

Jins Fri 19-Oct-12 15:39:53

Shouldn't be paying fees at all....grumble....grumble...moan

We should be investing in our future graduates, not saddling them with debt right from the start.

<pet hate>

corlan Fri 19-Oct-12 15:40:52

I think it's an interesting question. I wonder if we're going to become more savvy 'consumers' of Higher Education?

I'll definitely be encouraging my DD to look at overseas universities if she decides she wants to take a degree course.

OneHandFlapping Fri 19-Oct-12 15:42:12

Well that's the truth Jins.

However, seeing as we are paying for it, I am interested in what exactly undergraduate fees are being used for.

TiAAAAARGHo Fri 19-Oct-12 15:48:28

I broke my own rule...

Overheads, like all other institutions. The fees are used to pay academic staff, keep up buildings, stock/heat/power the libraries. They are also used to make sure all courses can be provided (science degrees cost far far far more than £9,000 - but stangely if we try to make science students pay the actual cost of their courses, they don't do the degrees and the country has no scientists (but a lot of English graduates)).

FredFredGeorge Fri 19-Oct-12 15:50:38

Well what did the university tell DS when he asked them that question while he was choosing a university?

Or did he not bother asking?

tinierclanger Fri 19-Oct-12 15:52:17

Just out of interest, what do you suspect the money is being spent on?

TheCollieDog Fri 19-Oct-12 15:59:16

Why exactly are we now paying unis such massive tuition fees? I imagine they make a profit on students now, which seems wrong.

I wish people understood the actual FACTS. 80% of public funding for universities has been withdrawn. Public funds to universities now only go to "helping" STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering,Mathematics) fund themselves.

So universities have NO MORE money than they ever had ... what has happened is that instead of funding for university teaching coming from general taxation revenue, it is now raised from the students themselves.

In the discipline I teach, our running costs per student were just under £9,000 per student per year. For some disciplines, such as Medicine, the running costs were more like £12-15,000 per student per year.

THE ONLY DIFFERENCE is that the money now comes from fees charged to students doing the studying rather than taxation.

As an academic, politically I think the whole thing stinks, and will backfire on the government in a half a generation's time when they won't have enough highly-trained skilled people to keep this country going. But then I didn't vote Tory or LibDem, not send my child to a fee-paying school ...

However, to equate fees paid to contact hours received is the wrong way to think about a university education. Fees also pay for: buildings, libraries, books, facilities, bursaries, student welfare, counselling & disability services. They subsidise residences, the public arts and culture to be found in a university (which become part of the general educative experience of most students), sports facilities, bursaries for internships, and so on, and on and on.

Indeed, to equate university education simply to contact hours is the wrong way to think about it. University is not school.

In my area of the humanities, my undergrads often have lengthy texts to read, and a large amount of background reading. My courses are designed so that for every hour in a seminar, they have at least 3 hours' preparation. So 10 hours of seminars per week need 30 hours of prep = 40 hours. What would you like to happen in higher contact hours? Should I sit in a lecture theatre doing my work (ie writing the books that will become their textbooks and reference works) while they all read next week's reading? We could do that for 8 hours and it would count as contact hours in the Government's Key Information data. But it would be a waste of my time and I can guess how many undergrads would actually turn up.

They may not tell their parents this (my DS certainly never admitted this to me!) but very few undergrads actually attend all the contact hours they're supposed to now. I invite them to personal tutorials (an hour one to one every term for all 40 of my personal tutees) and maybe a quarter of them turn up. I have two office hours per week where I have to be in my office for anyone to drop in. Rarely if ever does any student come to see me. So I'm a bit sceptical about this "more contact hours" call -- seems to me, that as soon as we treat education like a commodity, we're doomed.

LeggyBlondeNE Fri 19-Oct-12 16:00:54

For the record, my institution calculates that the space, heating, maintanence and admin cost for employing me as a lecturer is somewhere around £40K per year. On top of my salary, NI and pension.

As TiAAAAAARGHo said, there's then the same costs applied to the facilities provided to students, the people who administrate those facilities, and the extras used to subsidise student activities throuh the Union.

Library costs (journal subscriptions, updating books etc) are monumental and your child is getting 'free' access to all of that as part of his study; and if he isn't using the library he's not doing much of the work required for the degree.

And so on, and so on.

I don't think students should pay fees, but there isn't that much wastage in most universities. Except for middle/upper management of course, and their ridiculous pensions when they award themselves big pay rises just before retiring ... but that's a whole other rant!

OneHandFlapping Fri 19-Oct-12 16:04:23

I suspect that there are inefficiencies in university administration. I wonder if some of the money goes to partly pay for people in research posts. I have no information on this, so it's pure speculation. It just seems like such a huge sum of money for the provision of very little service.

Profitable commercial courses cost around £1000 to £1500 a week for 35 hours of intensive training - including a healthy profit for the business. University costs seem to be a different order of magnitude to eg private schools or commercial training, and I am interested to know why.

And no, DS didn't ask. It's not like there's a choice is there? If you want to go, and want a graduate career in the future, you have to pay the fees asked for. The only choice is not to go at all.

LeggyBlondeNE Fri 19-Oct-12 16:08:44

"Profitable commercial courses cost around £1000 to £1500 a week for 35 hours of intensive training"

But without all the other stuff we've mentioned above. Publishers are seriously screwing universities over journals (which we have to have, for students and researchers) which is a major component of library costs. Presumably these courses don't run massive infratstructural support including computer networks, administrate both training and pastoral care, etc etc etc

OneHandFlapping Fri 19-Oct-12 16:11:17

CollieDog, I'm not calling for more contact hours.

Your information what is paid for out of tuition fees is interesting, You see there is stuff in there that I think maybe should be cut down:

"They subsidise residences, the public arts and culture to be found in a university (which become part of the general educative experience of most students), sports facilities, bursaries for internships"


And LeggyBlonde, any private commercial enterprise with overheads of £40k per head would soon be in administration (unless it was a bank)

TheCollieDog Fri 19-Oct-12 16:13:47

I have no information on this, so it's pure speculation. It just seems like such a huge sum of money for the provision of very little service.

You admit you are speaking from ignorance: there are several people here -- and many more on public record -- to tell you just what is done by universities beyond getting everyone's PFBs through their degrees.

Research: well, if universities don't do research, who will? Do you want universities to be glorified schools?

I teach at a RG university. I'm a professor. I teach from 1st year up to PhD students. They all get the benefit of the archival work I do, of the new materials, ideas, and information I uncover, of the books I write (managing to squash it all into a 60 hour week, plus try to have a life -- ha!). In my own small way, I do work which enhances the culture of this country. It stops the ideas and knowledge of ths country atrophying.

In all other fields this is just the same.

Why is there so much anxiety from parents and pupils wanting to get into a "good" university? It's because good universities are full of brain-boxes, of Nobel prize winners, of people who write the books and articles on their research that your children will be using to further their own learning.

Gosh the anti-intellectual tone of these kinds of question really worry me. What sort of a future will this country have if our kids aren't just smarter than those everywhere else? Do you really want to run down a world-class higher education system?

TheCollieDog Fri 19-Oct-12 16:18:23

OneHand -- if you insist on such a crude monetarist value system, my answers will never satisfy you.

You cite training courses -- where on earth do you think tose that have the knowledge and skills to run and deliver those training courses got their knowledge and skills? And in what ways are they furthering knowledge and skills, so that they offer innovation, originality -- gosh, NEW KNOWLEDGE -- to the people they train?

You see, there is a difference between education and training. But if you don't get it, I doubt you ever will understand why universities are the way they are, and why arts, sports, and other public facilities (look at the Museum of Manchester for example, or the Ashmolean or the Fitzwilliam) are an important part of UK universities' role in our broader national culture ...

Cromwell44 Fri 19-Oct-12 16:19:05

Without premises upkeep and building there would be nowhere to have lectures, without staff salaries there would be nobody to teach, to set exams, mark them, publish results. Courses need to be designed or reviewed. Staff need office space, IT, to have payroll, equipment, they are sometimes sick, pregnant and retire. Students require a whole range of services, health, careers, welfare, accomodation, social etc.
In my own university undergraduate teaching is subsidised by the other activities of the university, particularly research, that's why most RG universities don't particularlyt want to increase student numbers.

There's not a lot of champagne and glamourous trips to the Bahamas - honest.

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