Campus community sell-out

September 18, 2008

It is certainly true that all of us who work in universities need to address the issue of student expectations about higher education ("Living the dream", 11 September). I have just returned from the United States, where I was able to observe first-year orientation at a small upstate New York campus.

This college ensures that support for students is continuous throughout the first year and that information about homesickness, health, sexuality, money, study skills and so on is parcelled out in manageable portions. What your report does not mention is that the most common site for delivery of these programmes is through the university halls of residence.

Two further Times Higher Education reports indicate why we in the UK are lagging behind in our response. On page 8 we learn that yet another university has decided to privatise student accommodation ("Jobs threatened as Salford looks to save £12.5 million", 11 September). Elsewhere, on page 15, you report that campus is no longer the centre of the student universe ("Survey finds it's all work, less play for the top-up generation", 11 September).

There is an important connection between these two facts. Imposition of tuition fees and the increasing cost of halls have meant that more students reluctantly choose to remain in the parental home. Those who do reside on campus find no association between their residential experience and their academic one.

In the rush to privatisation in the UK, we have entirely abdicated any responsibility for student residence life, and we have rendered inaccessible the most obvious site for the creation of campus community and student engagement.

Liz Morrish, Nottingham Trent University.

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