Oct 12, 2010

Academics – and lazy students – will have to work harder when fees go up

Harry Mount

Harry Mount is the author of Amo, Amas, Amat and All That: How to Become a Latin Lover and A Lust for Windowsills - a Guide to British Buildings from Portcullis to Pebbledash. A former leader writer for the Telegraph, he writes about politics, buildings and language for lots of British and American newspapers and magazines.

Academics – and lazy students – will have to work harder when fees go up

 
University report - could work harder
University report - could work harder
There’s a reason why students get a reputation for being lazy. Long lie-ins, too much drinking, not enough lectures or tutorials, endless holidays – all true.
All that’s OK, I suppose, when you’re getting your education for free – or for not much. If fees go up – as Lord Browne’s report, published today, suggests – that will all change. For £7,000 a year – or £12,000, at elite universities – all those wasted hours suddenly seem criminally expensive. Three eight-week terms a year with just one tutorial a week works out at nearly £300 a tutorial; almost £500 at the elite ones.
At those prices, something has got to give. Second-rate universities will go to the wall, as students realise they’re not worth it. And the better universities will have to offer more in return for all that money. £12,000 is about what it costs to go to an average public school; and it isn’t unreasonable to expect the same amount of tuition at university as you get at school – longer terms, with five or six hours a day of compulsory lessons.
The myth has always persisted that university is a time when you learn to work for yourself under a rigorous regime of self-directed study. Yes, there are always a few conscientious students who treat university like a job, putting in eight-hour days. And some courses – mostly science ones – do demand that sort of rigour. But most arts courses are a licence to take it easy.
If fees go up, both students – and academics – are going to have to work harder, to justify those fees to themselves and, in the students’ case, to their cash-strapped parents.

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