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Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Students Understand and Utilise

... the complaints procedures. According to a new BBC story student complaints to the University Ombudsman increased by 23% in 2008 following a 25% increase the previous year. Whilst it seems that only a small proportion of these were appropriate for the Ombudsman's attention it nevertheless indicates what the BBC has described as, 'a "cultural change" with fee-paying students wanting more value for money.'. Quite right too, I say.

A majority of complaints have been in relation to plagiarism issues and postgraduate degrees. Foreign students, who pay even higher fees than the rest of us, have complained about differences in plagiarism here and abroad, which have presumably resulted in them being penalised. Some postgraduates have complained after not receiving sufficient timely feedback as to their progress which has resulted in their major thesis not achieving the standard that they believed they were at.

I do not think it is unreasonable that as people are expected to pay more for their education they should receive a better service. The problem is that all Universities charge the same fees, Universities do not need to prove what they are investing the money in, in order to justify the fees. A majority of Universities seem to invest in fancy new buildings, to awe young people. Yet I have a personal issue with the fact that recommended texts for some of my courses are not available in the University library! Surely a much more important issue which would cost considerably less to rectify!

If I ever complain to my Mum about something breaking she always says "you get what you pay for" and that is obviously right, when it comes to market economics. So why doesn't this apply to University education? Fees should not be uncapped, but the Civil Service should assess Universities and their plans for investment and then specify how much they can charge. This would enable students to differentiate between institutions and know that the debt they will graduate with was worth while. It will also ensure that Universities have structured, sensible investment plans which students should be able to view when considering their University choices. The options are endless but something undoubtedly needs to be done.

In the mean time consumers of University education aka students will continue to demand more for their money and will increasingly complain when they are dissatisfied.

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