As a university student do you consider yourself to be a consumer? Watch

She-Ra
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An article on the Dailyinformation.com website was just tweeted to us - it notes the rise in student complaints about their university. As fees have been pushed up the number of complaints has risen.

The Universities Minister David Willetts has stated that he believes this to be a positive outcome informing the BBC:

"When there's a fee of £9,000, the university is obliged to show what they're doing and provide a decent service."

The article reports: "Since 2010, universities have paid out around £2 million in student compensation."

Day to day do you view your university as a professional service provider? As a consumer do you feel empowered to complain about course structure, the teaching, accommodation or any element of service the university provides?

How much bargaining power do you get for your £9k?

Ultimately is your course value for money?
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Old_Simon
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This is going to be a big thing. I can see legal claims in some cases and consumer "actions", adverse publicity, boycotts, etc...........
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rockrunride
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Technically yes, at least one of sorts, since I paid and am still paying for a [heavily subsidised] service.

As part of the £3k cohort I can understand the grievances of those coming through the transitional phase and their increased awareness of their status as a customer. The media and departing students have told them that they'll pay more for the same product, so they'll naturally give more thought to return on their investment, return both during and following their studies.
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She-Ra
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(Original post by Old_Simon)
This is going to be a big thing. I can see legal claims in some cases and consumer "actions", adverse publicity, boycotts, etc...........
Realistically how far off into the future do you think that is?

(Original post by rockrunride)
As part of the £3k cohort I can understand the grievances of those coming through the transitional phase and their increased awareness of their status as a customer. The media and departing students have told them that they'll pay more for the same product, so they'll naturally give more thought to return on their investment, return both during and following their studies.
I agree - very simply I am yet to see how courses have been changed, improved or have benefited by the rise in fee and ultimately what the ROI is for new undergrads who potentially face a tougher job market.
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Clip
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Yes. Of alcohol
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She-Ra
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(Original post by Clip)
Yes. Of alcohol
Not sure what you mean.........
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cambio wechsel
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(Original post by She-Ra)
Not sure what you mean.........
booze, grog, liquor, the falling-down water...?
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She-Ra
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(Original post by Clip)
Yes. Of alcohol
:huff: :facepalm: Wow, I just got stitched up there didn't I! I'm with you now.

(Original post by cambio wechsel)
booze, grog, liquor, the falling-down water...?
Thanks for clarifying
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SlowlorisIncognito
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I'm also part of the outgoing 3k cohort, and have worked for the university during my time as a student.

My perspective is that I am a consumer in some ways. I chose a "product" I felt was right for me and do have certain basic expectations - e.g. lecturers show up for lectures and mark work within a reasonable time frame, I have reasonable access to the library and other facilities where needed, I have a chance to give feedback, I can discuss issues and problems with a member of staff, I can use support services when needed.

However, I don't think being a consumer means I am entitled to a degree grade I haven't earned, especially if I don't put any work in. I am paying to learn skills, I guess, but not necessarily to pass the course. I also accept that lecturers have a lot of other duties, and won't always be free to see me, and that the university will decide how much contact time is needed to deliver the degree.

I can see how paying £9k a year for 12 hours a week contact time for two semesters doesn't always feel like it is worth it. I can see how, in this situation, students feel entitled to a level of "service".

However, I also believe lecturers and other university staff are stuck between a rock and a hard place- they are getting no more money, but expected to provide a better level of service. They still have the same level of commitments and in most cases there is no money to pay for further teaching staff. Some students are very entitled and make spurious complaints. However, some universities are complacent, and I have seen issues on hear and heard about them IRL where I feel the student does deserve better (dissertation supervisors not really supervising are a common problem). If higher fees mean students feel more able to complain when they are not being treated fairly, then that is a good thing. However, some students do have unrealistic expectations.
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MakeContact
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I am about to go to University, myself, but although I can understand the clearly growing trend of 'students' becoming 'consumers' as we have to shell out more and more money for the same service that just a few years ago, our relatives and friends were receiving at a far reduced rate to what we must pay now, I think it would be wrong to start trying to separate people into groups of 'students' and 'consumers'.

As financial expectations from universities increase, it is only natural that as a student, one might expect comparably increased services, which has led to the increases in complaints, as you say. However, I don't think that means that there will be an exponential increase in students complaining and treating universities as more of an educational business rather than as a University; after all, other than receiving a degree at the end, different people are going to want different things from their universities.
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socially inept
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I'm starting university in September and I agree that we are essentially just consumers but the problem is that the vast majority of universities probably are not providing a better service for £9k a year (I still find this rate completely ridiculous - it discourages many people to get a higher education). This country is just slowly turning to ****.
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SlowlorisIncognito
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(Original post by socially inept)
I'm starting university in September and I agree that we are essentially just consumers but the problem is that the vast majority of universities probably are not providing a better service for £9k a year (I still find this rate completely ridiculous - it discourages many people to get a higher education). This country is just slowly turning to ****.
The universities are unable to provide a better service though, as the £9k replaces the government funding they previously got- now it all comes direct from students, rather than mostly via the government.

Realistically, to drastically improve the service they provide, most universities would have to employ more teaching staff- which is very expensive, and they simply don't have the funds to do.

I do see it from a student PoV though, and I don't think every degree is worth £27k. It's up to the individual student to decide if a particular degree is "worth it" for them.
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MakeContact
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One of the problems I've identified with more professional degrees, from the experiences related to me by friends and family, is that in some professions, a high proportion of people are "trained" on the course, but the supply of students who have been trained in let's say, the graduate diploma in Law, far outweigh the actual demand for students from employers. Yet people are still shelling out the exorbitant educational feels required to go to law school. Thus, on the other hand, you could say that as students move towards becoming consumers, so too do the universities exploit them as businesses.

In my mind, I would like to return to the days where people studied a subject because it genuinely interested them, and enriched their life experience, and then went on to train in whatever profession they sought, much like the American system today. However, that system lends itself to significant inequalities, as while richer students would be able to afford to do a degree in what they were interested in and also have enough money for postgraduate training, the majority of people would not be able to afford this.

It just sort of shows the precarious situation our higher education system faces.
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Old_Simon
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If I had to imagine a new future for uni education in the future I think it might be very different from now. Take a uni lecture. Maybe in excess of 100 students all in one lecture. Is that efficient?
I can see far more digital / online learning almost like a fusion of the OU and the established unis. In that way unis can take advantage of new technology, can create a more flexible learning environment and at the same time head off the biggest source of complaints which are low contact time, and poor lectures.
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MakeContact
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(Original post by Old_Simon)
If I had to imagine a new future for uni education in the future I think it might be very different from now. Take a uni lecture. Maybe in excess of 100 students all in one lecture. Is that efficient?
I can see far more digital / online learning almost like a fusion of the OU and the established unis. In that way unis can take advantage of new technology, can create a more flexible learning environment and at the same time head off the biggest source of complaints which are low contact time, and poor lectures.
At the same time as revolutionising the university system, I don't know if you could say that it was all in a good way, however; more digital lectures and distanced learning means spending even less time actually speaking to those people face to face.

I could easily skype someone if I wanted to talk them, but I'm not sure I'd be so happy if things like tutorials were also guided by a system like that.
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Old_Simon
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Well if the vast bulk of information transfer occurs digitally then more time / money can be put into support / tutorials and face to face stuff.
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Ethereal
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(Original post by MakeContact)
One of the problems I've identified with more professional degrees, from the experiences related to me by friends and family, is that in some professions, a high proportion of people are "trained" on the course, but the supply of students who have been trained in let's say, the graduate diploma in Law, far outweigh the actual demand for students from employers. Yet people are still shelling out the exorbitant educational feels required to go to law school. Thus, on the other hand, you could say that as students move towards becoming consumers, so too do the universities exploit them as businesses.

In my mind, I would like to return to the days where people studied a subject because it genuinely interested them, and enriched their life experience, and then went on to train in whatever profession they sought, much like the American system today. However, that system lends itself to significant inequalities, as while richer students would be able to afford to do a degree in what they were interested in and also have enough money for postgraduate training, the majority of people would not be able to afford this.

It just sort of shows the precarious situation our higher education system faces.
This view of law isn't quite right though. The LLB / GDL does not train you for the professions - it completes the "academic" stage, but it is actually an academic course not a vocational one. The course that "trains" you (and I use that loosely) is the LPC or the BPTC - and even then you actually have to train afterwards.
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MakeContact
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(Original post by Ethereal)
This view of law isn't quite right though. The LLB / GDL does not train you for the professions - it completes the "academic" stage, but it is actually an academic course not a vocational one. The course that "trains" you (and I use that loosely) is the LPC or the BPTC - and even then you actually have to train afterwards.
Ah I see, (I haven't even gone to university yet, there's no way I could've known that lol) but the basic principle is still the same, isn't it? They are training more lawyers than will ever find jobs. And this definitely doesn't just happen in the law.
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Ethereal
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(Original post by MakeContact)
Ah I see, (I haven't even gone to university yet, there's no way I could've known that lol) but the basic principle is still the same, isn't it? They are training more lawyers than will ever find jobs. And this definitely doesn't just happen in the law.
They are, yes - but the real offence in law is that they allow far more people onto the vocational courses (loc/bptc) than there are training contracts or pupiliges and those courses don't add anything to a degree if you don't enter the profession.

Think that is a slightly different debate from the thread subject though...
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Katie_p
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I do consider myself a consumer, I complain frequently about certain aspects of my course - places being limited on some modules, not being able to choose between seminar times/tutors, having overcrowded rooms, or delayed marks.
I am very glad I got into the £3k cohort, as I would not be willing to pay £9k a year for my education, but I wouldn't have known that until it was too late!

I think it's a problem that Universities spend so much money making new facilities look amazing. Admittedly, there are some student residences which are awful and badly need updating, but we as students expect too much across the board. Rather than wanting to have everything, and accepting that it will be functional, we instead demand everything to be "high quality". Sometimes appearance even trumps functionality. Having spent this year abroad in Germany, at a University built in the last 50 years, which feels completely different to any University I visited in the UK, new or old, I think even those of us going to University for the "right" reasons (though I don't particularly like that expression) are expecting services which are not only expensive, but also largely irrelevant.
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