It's about time

April 17, 2008

Lancaster University is to be congratulated ("Lancaster guarantees students minimum weekly contact time with tutors", 10 April). The amount of contact time that many UK undergraduates receive is woefully inadequate.

While US higher education has its problems, it offers a model worth considering. Most courses are based on 40 to 45 hours of classroom contact per 15-week semester. Each course usually carries three credits. A full student load per semester is between 12 and 15 credits (four to five courses). Thus, students may anticipate something between 12 and 15 hours of classroom contact per week.

Something closer to this would be a substantial improvement on the UK student experience and would signal an institutional commitment to the education of students.

The benefits of an increase in contact hours are manifest. The learning experience would be enhanced; weaker students would get greater support and thus retention would be enhanced. Above all, the universities would refocus on a core activity: teaching students properly and effectively.

Mike Woolf, President, Foundation for International Education.

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