The lack of contact hours at the University of Strathclyde is an outrage.
Some students at this fine institution of ours are currently paying until £18,000 to be educated here and, if they’re like me and study humanities, they will only be at university 3 or 4 days a week for about 5 to 7 hours in total. Unbelievably, these hours don’t cover the whole year either. The university “semesters” are becoming increasingly shorter as they were decreased from 12 to 11 weeks just two years ago. And most courses have a reading week.
This, combined with the recent disturbances of ongoing strikes and snow days, has led to some students being unable to attend university for three weeks. In turn, this has meant that their ‘semester’ possible consisted of a mere seven weeks of classes, clearly not worth the £9000 some students are paying to the university year.
Granted, all courses do require independent study. Indeed students have been relying solely on online courses to help fulfil assignments and prepare for exams, which have not been adapted to fit within what has been taught and what hasn’t. However, it becomes dangerous when independent study becomes the primary source of a student’s university education instead of being a supplementary part of it. Students may be wasting their time and hard-earned cash on even attending university in the first place. They would be just as well studying everything on their own.
Despite the reducing weeks in the semester, few – if any – of the syllabi have changed since a few years ago, meaning that key concepts for classes are now being done in half the time or are being dropped all together – clearly not the rounded education model marketed to prospective students in glossy prospectuses.
One would think that when the university term is cut down, tuition prices should be diminished to to reflect it. However, this is not the case and as a result current international students and prospective students from all around the world may come into a degree expecting a higher amount of contact hours or longer class time on key concepts.
Comparably, further education colleges have guided learning hours which are timetabled in for students. There are strict guidelines in place which usually lead to a minimum of five hours of guided learning and another five hours of independent study per week, meaning that days are used to their full potential. As well as a day off during the week for self-study. As a result, many former college and university students say that they learnt far more in a year in college than four years in university. However, universities are not governed by any such guidelines. Although the Quality Assurance Agency suggests that full time university students should be studying for a total of 1,200 hours a year, this includes independent studying and not contact hours alone.
Various students and parents alike have complained about the lack of contact hours at universities throughout the UK and unfortunately it is unlikely that tuition fees will decrease any time soon. Therefore, universities urgently need guidelines in place to ensure that all students from all academic subjects receive adequate contact time since interactions with academics who are at the top of their respective fields cannot be replicated through self-study, no matter how hard one may try.
The increasingly competitive job market needs well rounded students who are going to be able to positively contribute to their workplace, using the skills and knowledge which they have acquired at university. With such few contact hours, this is now unlikely to be possible.
It’s time for the University of Strathclyde to reconsider its priorities. Is it a university that cares about educating students and spreading knowledge. Or is it merely another institution focused on making money?
Most students actually do want to learn and expand their horizons in life. And continuing to reduce hours and subsequently opportunities to gain knowledge would be an act or hypocrisy and moral corruption.
By Naina Bhardwaj