First-year summertime, time to research, not to unwind

Exeter looks to add value for £9K 'customers', but council members are sceptical. John Morgan writes

September 8, 2011

A university is to launch a summer programme in a bid to give students more bang for their trebled buck - but whether it means more work for academics remains to be seen.

The University of Exeter wants to introduce a compulsory programme for first-year students in the final two weeks of the summer term, with the aim of offering better value when it increases annual undergraduate tuition fees to £9,000 in 2012-13.

"The research-led summer programme would be academically rigorous and therefore would add value if it was delivered well," minutes from an Exeter council meeting state.

Exeter is ninth on the list of universities with the highest proportions of AAB students, making it part of a new elite under the move to ease controls on institutional numbers from 2012.

A university spokeswoman said that the summer programme would focus on "broadening students' horizons on key global challenges informed by leading research" and "enhancing employability". She said that at present, "formal teaching is concentrated in the first two terms via two intensive, continuous blocks", with revision, assessment and extracurricular activities in the third term.

The plans - to be piloted next summer - come "partly in response to the challenges presented by the new fee regime", the spokeswoman said.

But some Exeter council members appear sceptical about the "research-led" programme, apparently arguing that more teaching should be introduced instead.

"It was suggested that it would be difficult to convince parents that no teaching after March was good value for money and the evidence for the demand for the summer programme was not convincing," the minutes state.

"Reassurance about how the customer would respond to this proposal was requested as, without very clever communication, customers would come to the crude conclusion that there would be no academic teaching in the third term."

The minutes add: "It was proposed that to increase academic rigour and value for money, there should be teaching in the summer term for first years and second years and council should be provided with more information about the spread and quality of teaching hours and whether academics had enough time to deliver what was proposed."

Exeter's spokeswoman said the programme was "still in the design stage and will be subject to further consultation within the university".

She added: "We don't expect it to involve a large number of academics. Any teaching commitments will be factored into staff workloads."

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said that while students "are likely to become more demanding as the price of tuition trebles ... the answer is not simply to try to squeeze more out of already overstretched staff".

"If a university wants to offer additional teaching it needs to recruit additional staff on proper terms and conditions," Ms Hunt said.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride