Posts Tagged ‘Students’

I recently read a reader’s opinion in a newspaper, and the answer by the newspaper to it, on the subject of the increase in tuition fees and the amount of time spent in lectures at university.

They thought it was OK to pay so much money and only get 10 hours of contact time in lectures and seminars.

I was staggered that I only got about 7 hours of actual class time in my first year of university, and I was spending about £2600 per year to study at my university (not a top one, but still good quality). For the amount I was paying (and which was pushing me further into debt, even if it was lower than most of my peers’ debts), I would have expected to have spent far more time in actual lectures. And I was doing a joint degree!

I understand that, with being an English student, I was expected to spend most of my time doing independent studying, and that lectures and seminars were just opportunities to see what other students’ ideas and opinions were and to get help from tutors during tutorials. However, I still felt that I didn’t have enough to do. Through my first year, I was already on track for a First, so my boredom seemed genuine. As I moved into my second and third years, my grades started to decrease, despite my efforts to manage my independent studies more carefully, and my weekly hours spent in lectures didn’t really exceed 10.

However, despite only getting a 2:2 at the end of my degree, I still felt that the quality of my tutors and of my course modules were high enough to be worth the student debt I ended up with upon my graduation. I was pleased with how the course had challenged me and that I had learned a lot from it. My university was small enough that the tutors had good relationships with the students, and everyone got enough one-to-one attention.

Looking at just how much tuition fees have increased now (more than 3 times what I paid), I feel that my course would not have been value for money had I spent about £9000 a year for only about 7 hours teaching per week.

I suspect I might have dropped out after my first year doing English if I had discovered how little time I was spending in lectures compared to the amount I was paying BEFORE I started university. Or it would have caused me to choose a different degree, because I certainly wouldn’t have picked English if the fees had just gone up before I started university.

English is a good degree if you’re really good at it but it hasn’t helped me to get a graduate job so far, so I certainly wouldn’t pick it if I had the chance again.

I went on to further study by doing a Masters in Publishing, which cost me about £4500 for one year, and was better value for money because, despite not having many hours in lectures/seminars, I learnt a lot in a short space of time, I had the opportunity to do a work placement which they organised for me, there were opportunities to meet people in from all sectors of the publishing industry, and I got on with everyone on my course, which was a very small group. Also, when we were doing projects, we worked with other Masters courses, and spent more time on campus working on our projects as there was a lot more teamwork involved. My Masters was definitely worth the money I paid (and I didn’t even get into more debt paying for it because I had a part-time job and lived at home so I didn’t need to get any loans).

So, I feel that some courses are worth the money you pay for them, but you have to think carefully about how useful they will actually be in the real world. Make sure you’re getting value-for-money when it comes to how the course is run, how many hours contact time you get, and know how to manage your independent study. You don’t want to come out of a degree with more debt than you need to, especially if you pick a subject that doesn’t pay well.

Today, the Sunday Times published an article about Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, and his decision to take US classics off the GCSE English curriculum.

“The John Steinbeck novella Of Mice and Men, and other American classics including Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and the Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird, have been dropped from new English literature GCSEs after Michael Gove, the education secretary, insisted teenagers had to study works by British writers.”

Apparently, Gove doesn’t like ‘Of Mice and Men’, but why does that mean he gets to say that other people can’t read it? Surely there should be more people having a say in this?

The exam board, OCR, says that the book was “studied by 90% of teenagers taking English literature GCSE in the past”, which suggests that it is a book at the very heart of the GCSE English curriculum. Personally, I am one of the 10% who never studied ‘Of Mice and Men’, and when I hear people talking about studying it, I feel left out! Although, from what I’ve heard, it sounds like I didn’t miss much. I may even attempt to read it now, as I find that reading these classics out of an educational context makes them much more enjoyable!

Also, according to OCR, “In the new syllabus 70-80% of the books are from the English canon.

I’m all for promoting British books because we’ve produced some of the best writers, but it seems very narrow-minded to take out the US classics. To be fair, a lot of British classics, while good books, are a bit grating after a while, especially if you’re spending a whole term on one of them. I’m the sort of person who reads a book and then quickly moves onto the next. Education introduces you to some great books but spending too much time on certain authors can get a little bit boring. If you’re going to bore teens (many of whom probably don’t care that much about literature), at least try to throw in a few classics by foreign writers to do the job properly!

It’s bad enough that, in this world of technology and social networking, teenagers are less likely to read books in a conventional way (if at all) but education is the main place where you’re introduced to books which make you think about the world differently, and having books on the curriculum which are from a variety of authors from Britain and beyond our shores helps us to learn more about the world. We need to give teenagers the chance to learn about other cultures through books and broaden their minds! It seems very racist trying to kick out literature by foreign authors and doesn’t set a good example for young people.

I must point out that I was one of the lucky (or unlucky?!) ones who ended up in a GCSE English class which didn’t cover ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘The Crucible’, or ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, so I can’t say how good these classics actually are, but I did study J.D. Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye” which, although bizarre on the first reading, turned out to be very interesting (and I have actually read it since I left school!).

I studied my GCSEs in 2005, so I’m hard-pushed to remember what else I actually studied, but I remember having an anthology of poetry with Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage and a few other poets! It wasn’t very much fun though, although I remember liking studying the film “Pleasantville”!

I may not have enjoyed a lot of the texts I studied at GCSE, but it didn’t stop me taking A Level English, or doing a degree in English Literature and English Language, both of which covered infinitely more interesting books!

Banning books only shows that someone is trying to control what you are exposed to, and when it comes to books, I think it is wrong to limit people to certain things. Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen are all great, but there’s more to literature than their collective works! There are many exciting books out there!

Maybe banning these books will make people read them anyway? Who Knows?! We will see just how well this plan works when it is put into action.

What do you think?

The article from the Sunday Times “Gove kills the mockingbird with ban on US classic novel” is found here: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/article1414764.ece?CMP=OTH-gnws-standard-2014_05_24

Today i woke up to the news that many young people who are unemployed feel like they have nothing to live for. A survey by the Prince’s Trust says that “almost a third of long-term unemployed young people have contemplated taking their own lives”. (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25559089 for the full story.)

I agree that unemployment can have a damaging effect on your state of mind, mainly because having no purpose in life, no money and nothing to get you out of bed in the morning can seriously damage your self-esteem, confidence, and sometimes your relationships with others, especially those who have jobs.

Having no work life to discuss with your friends, and no income to spend on fun things or even just to pay your bills, can really make life unbearable.

My Situation

I’ve always said that i would never go on the dole, and so far i have managed not to. It is too easy to rely on others and going on benefits feels like i would be giving up. I don’t like asking for help. I want to be independent.

I left my last job nearly 5 months ago. Originally, i moved back home after graduating and took a part-time job to pay my way through a Masters degree. It was supposed to a temporary thing until i graduated with my Masters and got a “proper” job. After spending almost 3 years doing the job (2 of which were after my graduation and ended up being full-time), i was thoroughly fed up with doing a skill-less job which paid minimum wage. I did housekeeping, which i have nothing against, but through the mixture of being constantly knackered through doing such a physically demanding job, the upheaval of a management re-arrangement, and generally feeling stressed from being over-worked, i was bordering on falling into depression. Never mind that i was applying like crazy for jobs and getting a constant flow of rejections.

I left my job for the sake of my health, both mentally and physically. I don’t regret it. I needed to get out, otherwise i’d have nothing pushing me towards a new and better job which i want to do. I am much happier since leaving and have been having a nice break and seeing my friends more, going on holiday and working out my next step.

Therefore, i can’t moan about being unemployed when it was my own choice to leave. I thought the decision through before i made it, and made sure i had sufficient savings to live on for a few months until i could get something else. So i am living on my savings and not on the dole.

I am trying to stay positive that i will find something else, whether it is a graduate job or another unskilled job. And hopefully not too far in the near future (for the sake of my savings).

However, i still have days where i don’t think i will ever get a job, mainly because potential employers might think my reasons for leaving my last job were poor and then hold it against me, or because neither of my degrees have prepared me sufficiently for the world of work, or because i’ve had so many rejections that it just seems pointless trying.

I have a wall calendar with all 12 months of the year spread out on one page. Looking at those 365 empty white squares is enough to make you panic when you have no job to fill them. It’s easy to make plans but harder when you haven’t got the funds to do everything you want to do. At the end of the day, suddenly it hits you that all you want to do is work.

Experience and Education

The most annoying thing is that many employers won’t give you experience if you don’t have experience. It’s a vicious circle.

Being a university graduate doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get a job, and this is something that needs to be stressed to any young person considering going to university. I thought it would help me get a job, but no-one told me that i need to be more well-rounded during my university years, instead of only using that idea on your UCAS application to get you INTO university. I have the particular problem of having studied English, a “soft” option, which means i ought to have tried harder to get more experience during my studies.

Careers services at school and university didn’t really help me: nothing really jumped out at me and made me think “i want to do that as a career”. Not knowing what to do with my life has stopped me from pushing towards things as much as i could. I always try my hardest but uncertainty has held me back. I probably didn’t need to do my Masters degree either.

The country might be picking itself back up after the recession, but the job market is only getting stronger slowly. The government just wants people to go to university and it felt like the thing to do, so no wonder i felt forced into going to university in the first place.

What bugs me is that the Duke of York has spoken out about apprenticeships and university by saying “Coming out of university there’s a tendency to believe that you’re trained as well as educated, which is not actually true“. (See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/10545162/Duke-of-York-enters-education-debate-by-saying-university-should-be-icing-on-cake-rather-than-direct-route-to-jobs.html) I think you’ll find that i was trained for a job by my Master’s degree, if not by my undergraduate degree.

He also says: “In some respects I think that choosing the apprenticeship path and doing a foundation degree and then going on to university you will always have the advantage over many of your university colleagues because you have earned your spurs in the business world before going to university, so you’re going into university as a trained person, you’re not coming out as an untrained person.

Erm, when are young people supposed to do this apprenticeship thing when the government now wants to make school education compulsory until 18, instead of 16? And it seems slightly more complicated to go university when you’re a mature student. Also, university might teach you something totally different to what you learned on an apprenticeship? or you might forget the things you learned during your apprenticeship? Maybe these are pointless to mention but you have to consider that the Duke of York didn’t go to university himself, so how can he have an opinion on it?

You might agree with my thoughts, or you might disagree, but there’s a lot to think about when it comes to these issues.