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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

£20 per lecture?

That's what a BBC news article reports Swansea Uni's student newspaper as reporting when lectures were cancelled earlier this year:
"Students lose £20 a lecture after snow sends university into lockdown." It pointed out that fee-paying students are not getting full value for money if lectures are cancelled.

The article's main topic is the mooted rise of student fees - with some universities apparently considering (or even pursuing) fees of between £4,000 and £20,000! For comparison, my total debt when I finish my degree (three years of full-time study, one sandwich year and all other usual costs) will most likely come to just shy of £20,000, before I factor in the ~4% interest rate on my loans from the Student Loans Company (THANKS, SLC). (Granted, the SLC's interest rate is only 1% above the Retail Price Index as calculated each March, but it's still a sting in the tail.)

The BBC article then goes on to discuss the gradual but sustained erosion of the traditional 'campus ethic' - the attitude that your parents may have experienced if they went to University in the 60s or 70s. I'm disappointed in the way that the University experience is fast going -it often feels like a business, with the Uni struggling for funding as it is but sometimes unwilling (or unable) to raise fees any higher without causing massive bad blood between them and their students. That said, some Unis embark on shortsighted or poorly planned projects, eventually leaving them with large financial shortfalls - five or six figure sums - which they have to claw back through budget cuts (and sometimes the projects themselves are nothing to do with academia!)... but that is another story for another day.

For anybody who is not already familiar with today's University experience, I strongly suggest you read the BBC article. It captures the mood fairly accurate as far as I'm concerned, particularly further down where it mentions how student attitudes have changed and how they treat University as a result of ever-increasing fees.

However... Now I've said all that and put you on a bit of a downer, please don't write off going to University if you feel you want to - it's a marvellously worthwhile experience, giving you contacts and knowledge to help tackle the future (as long as you do a degree you actually enjoy!) but just as importantly, the self-reliance and independence really challenges you to grow up and deal with things in a more mature way. It challenges you to become who you really know you can be, given the right opportunities. So go do it!

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