Many subjects taught at so called elite universities in the UK have been reported as some of the worst degrees in the country, according to The Times newspaper.
Universities in the UK can be grouped according to performance. Universities in the Russell and 1994 Groups and considered to be the best. However, students have criticised 33 courses provided by these universities. Of the worst ranked universities, 3 courses were at Edinburgh, five at Manchester and Seven at Bristol.
Social Work courses performed pretty badly, with Swansea, Brunel, Royal Holloway and Birmingham City being reported in the bottom five worst universities in the UK. The business course at the University of Arts London was the fifth member of this group.
In fact, the Swansea Social Work course received the worst rating of all courses in a national survey of 200,000 students. It achieved a performance rating of only 44%. But how bad is bad? The average worst UK university could only muster half the score given to the best UK university course, finance and accounting at Exeter – it scored 96.2%.
The second highest university course by mark was Sunderland’s law course, which got 95.8%, with Medical Science / Pharmacy at Keele University in close third, scoring 95%.
Common complaints of the worst universities included rising class sizes, reduced teaching time and the substitution of professors with cheaper, postgraduate students. The vice-president of the National Union of Students said, “It is vital that institutions listen to student feedback on the development of courses provided in higher education.”
“I think lecturers welcome feedback from students and some of the very best lecturers really want to her what their students think of them.”
The worst univerisites were criticised for not informing potential students about the minimal teaching time of some courses by Anna Fazackerley, a member of Policy Exchange, a think tank. Anna commented, “The government should collect data about how many hours of teaching students receive, whether postgraduate students or professors are doing that teaching and how many students are being packed into classes.”
“This information is kept incredibly quiet, but parents and students have a right to know what they are paying for.”
As you might expect following the exposure of the worst UK universities, there are signs that students are rebelling at the clear lack of teaching time. In May 2009, students studying Economics at Bristol University submitted joint complains about marking which had been done by fellow students and not the lecturer, quickly rising class sizes and even exam lengths being reduced from the traditional three hours, to two.
Law students at Manchester University walked out of lectures in another sign of protest and marched on the vice-chancellor’s office when they were told of plans to reduce teaching time. In fact, Manchester University was highlighted as one of the worst universities in England and despite their politics course being ranked 2,064th, teaching time is to be reduced further. Manchester University have acknowledged the issue and said it would review teaching on all its courses.
“We have had instances of students saying they have not seen any academic for two years. That is not acceptable,” a spokesman said.
The survey was devised by the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills. Asking a total of 22 questions, it was hoped to be a tool for students to decide where to study. The worst university survey covered questions about student experience and how happy they felt.
A spokesman said, “The National Student Survey is part of the whole process of enabling potential students to have as much information as possible, so they can make their own, informed choice about which institutions to apply to. It’s up to the students.”