UK - Russell Group university courses are providing less than six hours a week face-to-face teaching – despite raking in fees of £9,250 per year
Leading university courses are providing less than six hours a week face-to-face teaching – despite charging fees of £9,250 per year.
Elite institutions in the so-called Russell Group are raking in the equivalent of £300 a week for less than a full day’s tuition, research reveals.
The courses affected are all in humanities subjects, many of which typically lead to poorer earnings after graduation.
The revelation re-ignites the debate on whether universities provide value for money when students graduate with up to £50,000 of debt. Daily Mail analysis of first-year undergraduate timetables found Bristol and York – two of the country’s highest ranked universities – were among those offering very low contact hours.
History students at Bristol receive an average of five-and-three-quarter hours a week of face-to-face teaching by academics. Those studying philosophy get roughly five-and-a-half hours and law students can expect seven-and-three-quarters.
At York, history students get an average of seven hours.
Universities often justify their low number of contact hours by saying the nature of the subject requires large amounts of independent study.
However, the number of hours offered for the same subject can vary between institutions – for example, law students at Birmingham get 13 hours a week tuition.
The analysis, based on figures posted by universities on their own websites, follows a study by the Higher Education Policy Institute think-tank showing the average contact time across degree courses is now about 13.7 hours a week. The research found students who receive less than ten hours are most likely to complain about low value for money.
The findings prompt questions over where the tuition fee money goes – with few universities offering truly transparent breakdowns. It is thought much of the money from humanities tuition fees goes into cross-subsidising subjects such as chemistry and medicine.
Many universities also spend money from fees on facilities and buildings, as well as expansion projects. Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said: ‘Students moving from schools, where they were taught for roughly 18 hours a week, can find it difficult to adjust to life in universities where they’re taught for a third of that every week in class sizes many times bigger.’
Russell Group universities pay their vice-chancellors handsomely – Bristol’s Hugh Brady received £292,000 last year. And Koen Lambert, who stepped down as York’s vice-chancellor in the autumn, received £249,000. Government data published this year shows history and philosophy are among the subjects producing the poorest graduate salaries.
Bristol said its teaching included seminars, structured tutorials, interactive lectures, practical sessions and workshops. A spokesman added: ‘As students progress through their course, curriculums promote greater freedom and independence. All students have a personal tutor who acts as an academic mentor.’
York said its courses offered expert teaching and nurtured independent learning to ‘help graduates progress confidently into the world as knowledgeable, thoughtful and employable people’.
A Russell Group spokesman added that the amount of contact time ‘doesn’t necessarily equate to a better experience for students’ as the quality of teaching and the intellectual challenge faced by students were also crucial.