As a recent graduate, I have experienced the many student gripes that you hear on a daily basis. The lack of contact hours, the 23-week academic year, class sizes of more than 60 watching a mundane PowerPoint presentation - all prominent problems rooted in the UK university system. On top of these, there is a more poignant question: 'Is university worth being indebted for the next thirty years of your life?' - as will be the case with three quarters of all graduates.
What are students really receiving for such a large financial burden? Evidently, the answer is not enough - students are becoming ever more aware of the poor deal they have signed up for and are starting to voice their opinion against the academic and political establishment.
A major new report released this week, Timebomb: How the university cartel is failing Britain's students, has lifted the lid on how the public university institution has bullied its way to becoming an all-powerful entity, pricing every undergraduate degree at the maximum fee allowed, and taking more and more from the students whilst giving them less and less in return.
The student comments gathered in this report brings to light the fears of the authors, that students around the country are feeling ever increasing levels of resentment towards the university cartel. In return for tripling fees in 2012, the student has received nothing extra, no extra contact hours per week, no extra weeks taught per year - and still the student feels they are more of an inconvenience clogging up the university machine, despite being the financial force propping it up.
It is no surprise that student dissatisfaction is reaching unprecedented levels. YouGov polling for Timebomb of current students at English universities found that when asked to rate the overall value for money of their university on a scale of one to 10, fewer than three in 10 were prepared to give a score of more than seven.
Throughout the writing of this report, the complaint about the severe lack of contact hours was alarming, albeit unsurprising. The lack of contact hours the majority of students were receiving was brought up frequently, solidifying their argument that the tuition fees are unjustifiably high for what they are receiving in return. The university bubble is fit to burst, and once burst, there will be no quick fix. University applications are decreasing, the student is becoming more aware that there are other avenues to go down, with a university degree not a necessity in order to start your life as a young adult.
There are solutions that will drastically change the current direction. When the 2012 fee hikes were implemented, it was meant to reinvigorate the university institution, giving the consumer more power and freedom. The student would be presented with a wide choice of prices, new types of degree as well as new institutions offering new degrees. Out of the ruins of these failed promises, this report has been written. We hope to harness the increasing levels of student dissatisfaction as a driving force for change - finally giving the student more choice and freedom as well as drastically increasing the value for money of a university degree.
The universal implementation of two-year degrees is one way of increasing this choice. Allowing the student to graduate a year earlier, up to £20,000 less in debt and able to kick start their career faster, would drastically increase value for money. Almost 50% of students surveyed by YouGov for this report stated they would be interested in taking up a two-year degree course if it was offered. Many of them also had no reservations about whether or not it would be possible to squeeze their current three-year degree into two years. A quote gathered for the report from a student from a pre-1992 university stated, 'I think 18 months would be a reasonable timescale for high flyer to complete the course in, and two years for most people studying full-time'.
Our report aims to rectify the downward spiral of value for money universities currently exert. In order to re-establish UK universities as the world's best, and continue to innovate and develop one of the nation's greatest assets, changes need to be made swiftly and efficiently. The student who no longer feels valued, the most important customer, needs to be assured that their investment is being returned.
As one student who commented for the report states, 'I don't feel like I particularly know where the money that I have paid for my degree has gone - It has not gone on me!'
If two-year degrees are adopted far and wide, with Government zeal equivalent to the past and present campaigns for apprenticeships, the timebomb of debt and dissatisfaction will be defused just in time.