On Thursday I wrote about the university lecturers who inspired me. Serendipitously, two other tales related to the halls of academe popped out of the woodwork over the next two days.

The first one was that students are more happy with their courses when they feel they have a lot to do. I get this. In my first year, I had three hours of lectures a day, and four of the five afternoons I had three hours of seminars, tutorials, or practicals. Some of the latter ran into the evening and disrupted my drinking. Then there were course assignments* and other jollities.

Compare this with my ex-partner’s daughter. She had to attend college for a mere three mornings a week, for two hours. Given the scale of course fees now**, I’d have been miffed by that. Yes, I went to university for social reasons, and as a way of trying to stitch my head back together, but I sure as hell expected to do some grafting, and so it transpired.

This latter aspect was emphasised by no less a personage than Sam Gyimah, the universities minister. He claimed at the Higher Education Policies Institute*** that universities offered too many ‘threadbare courses’ designed to put ‘bums on seats.’ He also claimed that this was a drain on the taxpayer.

I don’t see how that happens. Students pay course fees, taking out student loans, so the money doesn’t come from the taxpayer, undergrads are borrowing it.

Then he goes completely native. The sector is,’… failing to provide students with value for money as data showed their degrees did not lead to a rewarding career.’ Since when has higher education been solely predicated on getting a decent job? Whatever happened to learning for learning’s sake?

A philosophy degree might not stand you in good stead in the world of commerce, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t be able to study it. I got some damned well paid jobs on the back of my degree, but that was more by luck than judgement. I didn’t set out with the intention of spending 26 years in healthcare/pharmaceuticals, but that’s what happened.

By the way, ‘bums on seats’ is a bit rich too, since some courses are so heavily subscribed that students have to stand in lecture theatres. That would piss me off too.

*The ecology project was universally rejects by all of us, since we did the sums and this very labour intensive little exercise counted for a mere 2% towards our finals results.

**I was at university back in the time when the government thought further education was a wise investment, before they gave colleges and universities to treat students as cash cows.

***Sounds like a quango to me, and you know how I feel about them.

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