Students: use fees for books not pay

January 28, 2005

Improving libraries and campus security is more important than raising pay for academics when using the cash boost from top-up fees in 2006, according to students.

A MORI poll for the accommodation group Unite found that only 12 per cent of students thought universities should put extra cash towards "better paid staff and better motivated staff".

About one in three said better libraries should be the priority, while one in four said extra fee income would be best spent on improving access to computers. Almost one in three said campus security should be the priority.

Bahram Bekhradnia of the Higher Education Policy Institute, which has analysed the findings, said: "A frontrunner for additional funding must be staff salaries, given how these have been squeezed in the past twoJdecades.JHowever, this will not provide anything to show for the extra money, so it will probably not be popular with the Government or students."

The main finding of the Unite poll of undergraduates was that students had developed a more "mature outlook" since the first survey five years ago.

The poll reported that 36 per cent of students said they had come to university to be "stretched intellectually", up from 12 per cent in 2000.

While average student debt was £5,285 - up £525 since last year's survey and £1,959 more than in 2000 - 49 per cent said debt did not worry them. Eighty-nine per cent said the cost of university was an investment in their future.

However, Helen Symons, vice- president (welfare) for the National Union of Students, said: "Our Students at Work survey found that 59 per cent of students who work feel that it affects their studies, with 38 per cent missing lectures as a result and 21 per cent failing to submit coursework.

"That poor students are working longer hours to fund their way through university and are harming their academic performance as a result proves that the current funding system is unfair and discriminatory."

But Nicholas Porter, chief executive of Unite, said: "It is striking how students have changed in their outlook on university life over the past five years. This generation of students is perhaps the first to accept that they will need to borrow or work during term time to fund essentials. They are also confident of a graduate earnings premium that will pay off their debts following graduation."

paul.hill@thes.co.uk

KEY FINDINGS

* 88 per cent of undergraduates were happy with life - up 3 per cent on 2000

* 37 per cent believed university was a natural progression from college - up 20 per cent in four years

* The proportion of students "seriously worried" about finances was down 9 per cent on last year to 31 per cent

* More than two fifths of students have a job and work 14.5 hours a week, earning about £86. Two thirds said they worked to pay for basic essentials

* 38 per cent of students believe they receive "fairly good value for money".

Where student want to see fees income spent

Libraries: 31%
Security: 30%
Extra pay for lecturers: 12%

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