#yousayTuesday – Did you get value for money with your degree?

This week's #yousayTuesday was related to an announcement that was published by the Office of Fair Trading. They intend on investigating universities over the value for money they offer to students and also the competition between Higher Education institutions. The Office of Fair Trading is going to be specifically looking at the time spent teaching and how students felt their experience was.

We asked our twitter followers whether they thought they got value for money from their degrees. We got a range of responses that raised some really interesting points about what constituted value for money, the nature of Higher Education study and differing subjects that demand different types of study.

Many of the reactions we got, especially from third year students was the lack of contact time that they received. It seems a general trend that in third year you are expected to spend less time in the seminar room or lecture hall and more time studying on their own for things like dissertations or final year projects.

The first thing to acknowledge would be the different types of study and levels of contact time that different disciplines need. The old cliché runs about the disgruntled chemistry student that bemoans the amount of time off the History student has. However, while the chemistry student might spend hours in the laboratory, the History student has the freedom to study anywhere. The nature of science based studying is generally it needs to be in a controlled environment.

This is the same across all disciplines, some require a lot more supervision and back and forth between student and tutor or lecturer. While on the other hand, with a subject like English, students are encouraged to study alone and develop their own ideas about literature.

It is this idea that makes us reassess the way students are learning in Higher Education. If students are now being charged £9000 a year for tuition, it is not unreasonable for them to expect some tutoring. The rise in tuition fees has been one of the prompts for the investigation.

Students being charged £9000 a year, and even before, being treated like a consumer, students will act like a consumer. If they are receiving six to eight hours of contact time a week they will struggle to see the value, even if they can see the benefit.

One interesting point was that, while tuition fees are at £9000, one follower pointed out that tuition fees are contributing to more than just lecturers. Things like the services available to students like Careers, Counselling or support networks at the Student Union. While the overall experience should be judged when researching how much value for money a student received.

This can be things like quality of learning space like libraries or classrooms, quality of materials, availability of materials and other aspects of learning that can easily be taken for granted.

Whatever the Office of Fair Trading finds when it investigates universities and the value for money they offer, it should be remembered that education but especially university education, you get out of it what you put into it. If you work hard and come out with a top grade then your prospects will be improved. Students should remember that a Geoff (Hurst - First) costs exactly the same as a Richard (the Third).
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