Chalk Talk: Counting the cost of poor standards of university teaching


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The Independent Online

It was only to be expected: students are demanding more for their buck now that they are being charged up to £9,000 a year for their university courses.

A survey of 3,400 students by an organisation called Student Hut, which allows students to rate and review their courses online, shows that almost a fifth (19.6 per cent) feel that teaching standards at their university are "poor" and should be improved.

In addition, a similar number (20.8 per cent) believe that there is not enough extra support or care for students outside of the lecture hall.

The discrepancies between universities that emerge are revealing: 30.8 per cent of students at Manchester Metropolitan University believe that teaching standards are poor, whereas only 3.4 per cent of undergraduates at King's College London believe that.

When it comes to support outside the lecture hall, Oxford University has a perfect score, with not a single student expressing dissatisfaction, while nearly a third (30 per cent) expressed disappointment at Cambridge University.

It seems that it may take some institutions longer than others to catch up with the expectations of their students. Ultimately, though, they will have to, as competition between universities steps up.

A final word on the subject of whether to shorten the long summer holidays for UK schoolchildren. It comes from the horse's mouth, i.e. the children themselves.

The children's newspaper First News surveyed 4,558 children about their thoughts, and while 29 per cent were in favour of restructuring the timetable to reduce the long midsummer break, the vast majority of pupils were against the idea, with almost three-quarters wanting to keep the present system.

Of course, they don't have to face the heavy burden which their parents have of forking out for the extra cost of taking a holiday at peak times – one of the reasons for supporting the change on which both the National Association of Head Teachers and the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, agree.