University Education Suffering As Institutions Focus Funds On Marketing, Says NUS
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The quality of university education is falling as institutions invest in marketing rather than on their staff and students, the president of the National Union of Students (NUS) has said.
Zamzam Ibrahim says money's effect on universities is a problem, as popular universities are taking higher numbers of applicants, some of which are teaching crammed classes of up to 150 students all paying those tuition fees.
On the other side, other institutions are struggling to fill their courses and generate enough income, an issue that's been highlighted as GSM London, one of the biggest providers of higher education, closed its doors due to insufficient numbers of students 'to generate enough revenue to be sustainable'.
The situation has been worsened due to a lower number of 18-year-olds in this generation, meaning there's increased competition between universities to recruit the most students and obtain the tuition fees they need to keep running.
The most popular and well-known universities tend to have a head start in the process, whereas less popular ones are struggling to gain the attention they need to sustain income.
Ms Ibrahim warns we are 'corrupting our education system' and that 'the priority, that should always be students, is moving towards making money.'
More universities could close down in the future due to the financial pressure and naturally this has spurred many into panic and desperation.
Currently, some are reported to be on the edge of bankruptcy. With the current situation, we're left wondering which university is going to be next and the institutions themselves are aware of the danger, which only makes things worse.
As Ibrahim suggests, the current mentality of universities is ‘okay, we have to recruit this many students and we don’t care how we do it or we are going to go under.'
Despite the lower number of 18-year-olds, ahead of results day, a record 80,000 students were expected to take up places on courses through clearing.
The universities want and need these spaces to be filled, so cramming students into lectures and forcing lecturers into more work than is comfortably possible is no barrier.
Whether making academics cover more lectures despite stress leading to a lower quality of teaching, converting spaces for students into offices on some campuses to save money, or cutting coverage of printing costs, they're finding ways to fit those students in.
The apparent lack of respect for academics and lecturers is also worrying - to ensure students get the best education experience possible, 'universities have to invest resources in their number-one asset – their staff', says Jo Grady.
Jo Grady is the general secretary of the University and College Union, and 'shares the concerns of NUS when it comes to a lack of resources, the damage marketisation is doing to higher education and the pile ’em high, teach ’em cheap approach.'
She's not the only one concerned with what's going on. A spokesperson from Universities UK adds that 'universities are operating in a challenging environment with increased competition, undergraduate tuition fees frozen and immigration rule changes impacting their ability to attract international students.'
They understand Ibraham's focus on 'sustainable funding to ensure students receive the high-quality university experience they rightly expect'.
On a more positive note, the government financially supports 'around half of the overall cost of higher education – a conscious investment in the skills and people of this country', according to a Department for Education spokesperson.
Four UK institutions also rank among the top ten in the world. The English higher education sector additionally has a great reputation and attracts 'more international students than ever before, boosting Britain's exports and HE finances'.
However, there is still definitely an underlying issue at hand and we're only just starting to see the dangerous signs of it resurfacing.
One of Ibrahim's priorities is to campaign for a fully funded education system, and she hopes to hold a national student strike to call for free education for all.
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