10 questions universities don’t want to be asked at open days

Union asks students to probe institutions’ employment practices when visiting campuses

July 7, 2014

Last week, chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne refused to answer when a seven-year-old boy asked him “what’s seven times eight?”

He was widely ridiculed, but are there any tricky questions that you dread potential students asking when they pay you a visit on open day? Well, you should get your answers ready, because prospective university students are being encouraged to ask difficult questions as part of a University and College Union campaign for greater transparency in higher education, launched today.

The union has produced a list of 10 questions it wants would-be undergraduates to ask. UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said that students were “bombarded by information these days”, but that so much of it was “just advertising bumf”.

“We are encouraging students to ask the questions that universities would rather they didn’t,” she said. “We need far greater transparency in the higher education sector and prospective students should exercise their critical capacities even before they join a university.”

The 10 questions universities don’t want to be asked

  1. How much of my teaching will be given by staff employed on zero-hours and temporary contracts?
  2. What is the student:staff ratio at the university?
  3. Does the university pay the living wage to all staff it employs, including staff on casual contracts?
  4. If I take a job working at the university while I am a student will I be paid the living wage?
  5. Are the open day guides who show me around paid the living wage?
  6. What is the ratio of the vice-chancellor’s salary to the pay of the lowest paid member of staff?
  7. What will the university do if proposed cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowance are implemented in 2015?
  8. Does the university want to see tuition fees rise above their current maximum of £9,000 a year?
  9. Does the university believe that student loans should be sold to a private company?
  10. What would this university do if the terms of their students’ loans changed for the worse after they had started their course?

Have you ever been asked a tricky question by a prospective student? Tweet us at @timeshighered or leave a comment below.

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Reader's comments (7)

Any idea why the UCU itself doesn't publish the answers to these questions? If they published an annual ranking of universities according to "good employer" characteristics, it would attract interest.
In particular,the Staff - student ratio can be misleading, staff totals may be the sum of any of the following: mostly full time teaching, lecturers with much research and some teaching duties, research assistants with teaching duties, part-timer lecturers, external contracted visiting lecturers etc.
Why am I paying the most expensive fees in Europe when your lecturing staff are the 2nd worst paid in the English speaking world? How much of my money will your university put into its reserves instead of spending it on providing the education I am paying for?
What is the salary of your Vice Chancellor? What is the ratio between the VC and your lowest paid member of staff? What has happened to league table rankings in your current VC's term of office? What is your University's employability record.......really? What's the crime rate in this city? As a student how likely am I to become a victim of crime? What is the proportion of overseas students to UK students on the programme I'm interested in? How many hours a week of contact time do I get?
Why is Martin Bean being lauded when his University has the worst retention and progression figures, by far, in the country?
Really interested to read the number 1 question (and 5 & 6) in this article... How much of my teaching will be given by staff employed on zero-hours and temporary contracts? Are the open day guides who show me around paid the living wage? What is the ratio of the vice-chancellor’s salary to the pay of the lowest paid member of staff? The Social Enterprise Mark is working with Universities on this - an announcement is due in November?
How many of the people you employ in 'central directorates' are on salaries greater than the average academic salary and why are you wasting my fees on these people instead of investing more money in frontline teaching staff?

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