Sandwich-year students regularly ask what they get for the 50 per cent tuition fee they pay on their year out (Letters, THES , April 13). They say a couple of visits from a supervisor and a couple of days in college do not seem worth £500.
The government has the right to expect half the normal fee because it provides us with half the funding we get for an on-site student. My department uses the money in two ways. First, to provide individual supervision that is not limited by a formal schedule. Students may ask for additional visits at any time (although they rarely do) that involve travelling time and expenses. Supervisors negotiate with employers about the work the student does and advise or relocate a student in the event of serious problems such as racial or sexual harassment. There is also preparation for the final-year project, often involving many emails.
Second, if the projected "reasonable" use of lecturer time for these purposes leaves money in the kitty, it is transferred into additional on-site teaching - for example offering an otherwise uneconomic option to a small group. Thus, placement students benefit from their collective funding before, during and after their year out.
The unfairness in the charge is that a student whose parents have been assessed for a reduced contribution of (say) £600 to the normal fees must still pay the full £500-plus for the half-rate fee because in absolute terms they are deemed able to afford it.
There are simple answers to questions over the fee: tell students that they will be earning a salary and still be entitled to a loan; that they are quite likely to get part-time employment out of this or even a permanent job offer; and that they might consider paying their own fees this time and give their parents a break.
Mid Kent College of Higher and Further Education