THE BLOG

Higher Education Has Become a Business and This Customer Isn't Satisfied

26/11/2014 08:23 GMT | Updated 25/01/2015 10:59 GMT

With campus feeling busier than ever I can't be the only one who feels their uni experience is being compromised while our bank accounts buckle.

In 2012 I started as one of the first students to begin their university experience paying £9,000 per year in tuition fees, and I won't hide the fact that I wholeheartedly disagree with the extortionate amount we're forced to pay for a shot at a more rounded education.

I'll admit that I have been guilty of the self entitled spiel of "I'm paying £9,000 for this" at the most trivial of triggers (from a rickety table in the library to the lack of reliable Wi-fi on campus), but there are definitely times where I feel the 'nine grand complaint' can be legitimately deployed and they're becoming increasingly common.

At my own university, space on campus is tight. Despite new study spaces being built over the summer, the soul destroying trek around campus to find so much as a free seat is hardly conducive with efficient learning (if you're lucky enough to find somewhere where it can take place at all). Queues for newly built food outlets stem so far into the distance that the concept of 'grabbing a sandwich' between lectures is one I forgot about long ago. To top it off, my university, alongside others, have just released plans to extend the teaching day for next year in order to make room for the influx of new students, beginning the day at 8:30am and ending it as late as 6:30pm. They're even considering the Great Hall (a venue that's hosted pop groups and balls) as a teaching space, and I can't imagine any lecturer feeling particularly comfortable standing on a stage with a microphone watching a two-tiered audience squinting to make out the lecture slides.

Ask any humanities student to show you their timetable and you'll probably notice a distinct lack of, well, timetabled activities. Some friends of mine will only spend five or six hours in lectures or seminars per week and some even claim to have a six-day-weekend. Such a striking lack in contact hours with tutors can hardly be called sufficient to monitor students' learning. As the Telegraph reported recently, students are increasingly getting away with achieving good marks despite low attendance and little or no private study. Is this really down to the laziness of students or is it really a lack of encouragement and supervision by the university itself? Of course independent study is a valuable skill for everyone to learn while studying at university, but cruising by on the bare minimum isn't hard if you're only face to face with a lecturer for four hours a week.

The extension of the teaching day is, for me, the straw that broke the camel's back when it comes to providing value for money for students facing a lifetime of debt. Not only is such a move demoralising for students who, I can say myself, are not fans of lectures starting at 8:30am, but it will only serve to further anger an increasingly volatile staff, many of whom have been involved with marking boycotts over disputes over pay in recent months.

Record numbers of students are attending university this year and young people choosing to further their education is something that I'm hugely in favour of. What I can't support, however, is a free for all in universities which simply don't have the infrastructure to deal with the rising numbers, but who are happy to benefit financially from them at the expense of the student experience.

Wednesday's march for free education proves that students aren't willing to sit down and accept the conditions the powers that be are content for them to survive under. A £9,000 price tag on a course which involves (if you're lucky enough to have many contact hours) your day stretching between unreasonable times and a system in which you are only identifiable by your student number in a sea of individuals you need to battle with just to get across campus, is by no means a fair one. I hope universities and the government will listen to that at least.