Published on November 20, 2013 | by Laure Fourquet

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New report shows frustration over contact hours

The report by Quality Assurance for Higher Education shows that students care more about contact hours than any other complaint [©SUARTS]

A new report by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has shown continuing frustration among students over contact hours.

The investigation provides evidence that students find they receive a low “value for money” for their tuition fees, with first-year students often being taught directly for less than 10 hours a week.

Tutors at UAL have challenged this view, stressing that university students must be granted academic freedom.

“It is not right in my view to equate value for money with increasing teaching hours,” said William Raban, film tutor at LCC. “The priority must surely be to make sure that our graduates are reflective practitioners who have been able to test their ideas with some considerable independence.

“Ideas and philosophies of practice are at least as important as the teaching of technical skills.”

Dr. Alessandra Vecchi, former course director for graduate diploma fashion management at LCF, views higher education as “a luxury product” and thinks “students feel entitled to nag about everything and often the joy of learning in itself takes a back seat”.

Timetabled

According to the Students’ Union (SUARTS) annual survey, increasing student group sizes, cuts to timetabled hours and the replacement of scheduled staff time within ‘office hours’ are part of the cuts many UAL students claim they have had to face.

Louis Grosperrin, a CSM moving image student, told ALN about his first year: “The exchange we had with teachers was very little, and if there was any form of complicity, trust and connection between students and teachers, it was very weak.”

However, Grosperrin praised UAL’s facilities that “kind of justify the price we are paying”.

While a number of LCC students complained about teaching contact hours, Chelsea students appear to be positive about getting their money’s worth.

Sabrina Shah Hakim, a third year student at Chelsea, said her only concerns were the “opening hours of the libraries and the price of the printing facilities”.

“We should not lose sight of the fact that we are an art school,” said Raban. “The art school ethos is based very much upon students being able to develop their projects with a degree of freedom and with time to critically reflect on the work they are making.”

The SUARTS survey found contact time to be students’ most valuable resource ahead of studio facilities and employment prospects.

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