By Luke Wakeling
What am I spending my money on? Too often I have sat through a lecture, watched a very plain PowerPoint presentation that was probably made 3 years ago, and wondered this.
As a student of Journalism and Politics, with 7 contact hours per week, I regularly question how much my course is actually worth. I also question if I will get a job out of it, as a course like mine is frequently labelled the epitome of a pointless degree.
I find the limited lectures I have interesting, and I have always wanted to go to university to study journalism. But I do not think it warrants the price. Of course, STEM subjects or courses like medicine or engineering, where students are taught for long hours and learn practical skills, would seem good value for money. There is an argument that courses like politics subsidise those that are more expensive to run. Is this right? I agree that you cannot have different prices for different degrees; this would put some off the more expensive courses, but it still doesn’t seem just.
UK fees are among the highest in Europe. The common argument from UK universities is that these fees are required to stay competitive globally, and the rising prices reflect inflation. Yet the average spent on education staff is lower in UK universities (63 percent) than in the EU (70 percent) and the OECD (68 percent). Wages of staff has decreased by 21 percent since 2009, despite university fees increasing from £3225 a year.
Universities often shroud themselves in secrecy when it comes to details about what they spend their money on. This definitely gives the impression that something suspect is going on behind the scenes. Indeed, it is questionable how much the lecturers got out of the £227m Cardiff University spent on ‘academic services’ in 2016/17.
Many academics work not because of money, but because they want to teach and research. Most of them could earn more in their respective fields elsewhere. What could be more important than the academics, the main reason students go to university? Well, 116 universities spend £3billion per year on administration. For example, the University of Bristol increased their spending on departments by 85 percent from 2000 to 2009, whilst increasing administrative costs by 261 percent and the vice-chancellors pay by 113 percent. This is common throughout most UK universities.
However, although not the only route, it is still undeniable that a degree is essential for a lot of career choices. This is why students still pay the increasing prices, and statistics show the average wage is higher for a graduate compared to a non-graduate. Nonetheless, is it right students pay this huge price for the privilege? Should universities make the amount of profit they do? Should education be a business? My answer is no, to all three questions.
It is a crime how much administration costs have risen compared to academics. Tuition fees shouldn’t be abolished- that is unrealistic. Rather, I think we should pay for what we get, which is more than a few PowerPoints and a nice certificate.