Why am I paying £9,000 for five contact hours a week?

It’s time someone said it


Third year. The point in which your uni career goes to shit. All of a sudden everything you submit counts, you don’t bounce back from your hangovers like you used to, and, for humanities students, you have almost no contact hours.

I’m not complaining about the actual £9,000 price tag, as that’s a whole different argument piece. I’m just putting it out there that it seems bizarre that humanities students, such as myself, are paying that much money for five and a half, or in some cases, less, contact hours a week. It works out that for one 11 week semester, we’re paying £74.38 per hour of university.


But how is this allowed? Sure, we have a lot of reading to do. But, where we were originally taught, or at least lectured, on a subject, now we’ve been thrown into the abyss; “read these 300 pages of something you know nothing about, and then come to the class and discuss it”. How is that helping anyone learn?

So, what is that £9,000 actually paying for? The time of the tutor? The price of booking the room your seminar is in? The time it takes for uni staff to file your coursework? Because it certainly doesn’t include paying for ridiculously expensive textbooks that are compulsory for the course, printing off our coursework, or any resits we need to do. It also definitely doesn’t include the price for the hub to have more than two copies of the reading for our next essay, or for the counselling service to offer more than four appointments.

It’s so relaxed we work in the pub

Let’s look at it a different way; if you have five and a half contact hours a week, you’re getting 60.5 hours of contact time a semester. Junior doctors probably work more than that in one week. Ultimately, when choosing to go to university, we’re paying to be given something that we can’t do on our own. We’re paying for academics, the experts in our particular fields, to teach us about a certain subject. And apart from those five hours of seminars, we’re not getting that.

Obviously, subjects such as history and English have to involve a lot of reading, and that’s fair. But, to the extent to which that is what we’re paying to do, is ludicrous. I can read about the English Civil War for free, I shouldn’t have to pay to do that, thanks.

The ring leader

Sure, it’s a two way thing. We’re paying for a service, after all. For example, we’re paying for Bristo Square to look nice, and for the vice-chancellors £271,000 a year wage slip, but we’re getting five hours of teaching a week and a couple of exams back in return. It just doesn’t seem like a fair deal to me.

Ultimately, people may argue that, in the end, we’re paying for the ‘degree’. We’re paying to say we studied a certain subject at a certain university, with the expectation that it will further our careers. But really, what is that worth if we haven’t learnt anything?