Contact hours

Sam Wigglesworth

I have achieved the dream that I desired when I was about 7 years old – replacing the 5-day working week with five days of play and just two days of lectures.

This summer, I found myself ready to enrol in my Junior Honours year. For the previous two years at Glasgow University, I have, like many Arts students, had ever Friday off. I’ve grown somewhat accustomed to these three day weekends and was interested to see if this is the way my timetable would fall for the third year in a row.  As I looked over my preliminary choices, I realised I wouldn’t just have Friday off, but also Thursday and Wednesday. Yes, my working week potentially falls entirely on a Monday and Tuesday.

Right around the time I realised this, Glasgow University released how they polled in the National Students Survey. 89% of students revealed that they are satisfied at Glasgow and the same percentage believe they have the contact with staff they require.

I initially believed this to be somewhat of a joke. I’ll be leaving university with around about £15,000 of debt until my belt and for what? Six hours of classes and a worse for wear liver. However, a bit more thinking on the subject has led me to do a bit of a one-eighty.

Firstly, my degree is an Arts degree. This requires a vast amount of independent reading of journals, books and essays. Last year, my average reading took me a solid three days to complete (you all thought I loved my three day weekends to recover from Thursday night HIVE – may they rest in peace)  and I imagine for my Junior Honours year, this amount of independent reading will go up.

Secondly, for what I’m paying for my tuition per year (no, I’m not one of those lucky EU/Scottish sods) it doesn’t actually work out as badly as the £1820 lump sum had me believe. When broken down into an average of 10 weeks a semester, it works out I’m paying £60 a week for my tuition – so £20 a class. When you consider the calibre of the professors at the University, who all are experts in their field, it does seem like I’m scamming them a bit.

Thirdly, I’ve never actually experienced any tutor or professor being averse to meeting up with a student should they experience difficulties with the course content. They all have office hours specifically set aside (and according to some tutors, woefully underused) for this purpose. This was something I took huge advantage of last semester when I found myself potentially failing my horrendous Logic class for Philosophy.

So for an article that started off with me complaining and being embarrassed that I’m only in University for 6 hours a week, I seem to have ended by defending it. This isn’t to say that there aren’t problems. For those paying over £6,000 for tuition, the issue of contact hours is a much bigger one and one that will have to be addressed. For these people, it averages out at over £200 a week for their university education, a significant amount whether theirs is an Arts degree or not.

For myself however, I guess I’ll just get my head stuck down and use the free time wisely. And who knows, maybe my extra three days off will allow me to keep all those start of term promises I always make to myself.  Maybe I will join another society. Maybe I will join the gym. Or maybe I’ll have a drink instead.