The lack of contact hours for humanities in Liverpool is a joke and I want more

Medics do more in a day than arts students do in a week

What’s the point of going to uni if you don’t go to lectures?  You’ve probably been asked this question at  family get-togethers, almost as many times as you’ve heard “N*ggas in Paris” on a night out. You respond halfheartedly, saying you love learning and would never consider skipping a lecture, even if it is first week and you’re just watching a bored lecturer recite the module handbook.

What you really want to say is, what’s the point of going to uni if you barely even have any lectures. It’s a searching question, one pondered by arts and humanities students everywhere as they mill around campus, looking for books and whichever drain their £9000 has mysteriously been washed down.

Arts students have nothing to do

A quick look at the two main numbers isn’t too encouraging. Paying £9000 per year, an English and Communications student can expect eight hours per week in their first year, six in their second and just four hours per week contact hours in their final year. That means these students pay £48.91 per hour in the first year, £65.22 per hour in the second year and £97.83 in the final. So, for English and Communications freshers, £1600 is spent on lectures and a ridiculous £7400 spent on hours not in uni. Which, in first year, is barely spent revising.

Uni is likely to be the second most expensive purchase of your life, unless you do really well at uni, in which case that’ll be your fifteen Rolex’s and Ferrari collection. With the post-fees increase, students and parents have begun to focus on the value for money which they are receiving from their degree. 

This fact was recently acknowledged by Universities Secretary Jo Johnson who, in a statement available on said “I hear too many stories from parents about their kids not getting enough teaching time or support from their university. I want to make sure everyone who invests in a degree feels they are getting value for money”. It’s evidently not just Arts students who feel they aren’t getting the education they want.

Contact hours are the easiest way for students to gauge how much the uni’s time and money is spent on their education, so it’s the most obvious way to evaluate whether or not we are getting value for our money. Noticing that you’re paying the same amount for uni as science students, only to do the amount of hours they do in a day in a week, makes those on low contact hours feel slightly cheated. It always leads to that conversation where the better-than-thou science student we all know, decides to point out that your degree is paying for theirs.

Day in the life of an arts student

But money isn’t all we care about. In Freshers 8 or 9 hours a week seemed a bit small, but nobody cared because there was more important business to attend to, like writing the best Yik Yak about Carnatic food. Now, you’re a second year and you can’t complain about the food because you cooked it. You’ve also come to realise you actually want to do more with your day than curling up in bed with Netflix and a warm Lucozade.

But it seems like the hours become less as the years become more important. The work obviously becomes harder, self study more important, yet how deflating was it to look at VITAL (when it worked) and see such a small timetable. Course doubting questions fill your mind – do I have so little to learn? Does that mean my degree actually is less important? What will snotty science guy say about this? It’s almost demeaning to the importance of arts/humanities subjects to see so little time and resources devoted to their teaching. It’s also demeaning for students to have defend their degree on these grounds.

Give me more contact hours

This argument will seem less relevant when students are flattened by an avalanche of essays and coursework later in the term, making use of the online resources their fees apparently payed for. But this is about the principle. The lack of contact with tutors on arts and humanities courses makes education a distant, business like affair, rather than an intimate sharing of academic wisdom. It reminds you that in learning terms at least, you’re on your own. The free hours to sit at home or try out the multitude of city centre coffee shops are nice, but at the end of the day we’d rather say we spent uni learning about post-structuralist criticisms of T.S Eliot than the scheduling of daytime TV.  Contact hours are less about how they reflect value for money and more about feeling a welcome part of the university, feeling like a participant rather than a lone reader.