Students facing rising tuition fees see boozy freshers’ weeks as a waste of time and money, top private school head teachers have claimed.
Leaders at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) warned that students today are much more focused on getting value for their money when it comes to their degrees.
“They want to start studies in the first week,” said William Richardson, the conference’s general secretary.
Most universities charge £9,000 a year in tuition fees, up from £3,465 in 2011 and £1,000 in 1998. From next year, students will face fees of up to £9,250.
With the average student spending £400 on nights out during their first week of university according to the Tab, the HMC claim many now see freshers’ week as an unnecessary expense.
Chris Ramsey, head of the HMC’s universities committee, said: “One of the things that has been said is we’d like more actual university stuff to happen in the freshers’ weeks and we would like them not to go on for too long.”
But it was not just the cost of freshers’ events that the HMC criticised, with the group of head teachers branding booze-heavy welcome celebrations as “isolating”.
“There is concern about freshers’ week being culturally very clunky,” Richardson said.
“So, the teetotal, faith-based female student, who wants to enjoy freshers’ week, at a venue where you can’t say no to drinking - that’s definitely an issue.
“We’ve had a chat with the presidents of the students’ unions.
“Their concern is quite interesting - they want all students to feel included in the induction, and sometimes freshers’ week is so far off the scale the wrong way that it is a big problem for them,” he added.
“They want it reformed, I think.
“Freshers’ week did definitely get out of control 10 years ago, and [they] are reining it back in.”
But the National Union of Students has hit back at the HMC’s claims.
Shelly Asquith, vice-president for welfare, said the group of head teachers from top private schools did not represent the average student.
She exclusively told the Huffington Post UK: “The HMC is speaking on behalf of the minority of students at university who come from private schools, and from our experience most students do seek a period before study starts to get to know their peers and their new environment in a relaxed, informal setting.”
Asquith also blamed the fact students were struggling with university costs on the government removing maintenance grants.
“We need more financial support for students that allows them to engage with the full college or university experience, and not have to worry about how they will pay for their rent or food,” she added.
Richard Brooks, NUS vice-president for union development, felt that the HMC’s view of freshers’ weeks as boozy was unfair, taking to Twitter to share the ‘dry’ events being held at student unions.
Brooks said in an interview: “Students are asking more and more for different opportunities to meet other students in a variety of spaces.
“Students’ unions are rising to the challenge and providing a range of events that reflect this and finding ways to welcome new and returning students.”
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