Saturday, 10 March 2007

Some are more = than Others

Art School

Is it unethical to criticise a university you hope to get a degree from?

I level it out and justify my complaints as this: I'm paying for my own education, with a 2.4% interest charged on top of the standard tuition fees due to the government loan.

If I was paying for a service like, oh say, private health care or car maintenance and I was unhappy, it would be perfectly acceptable to complain, as long as it was constructive. So complain about my education I will...

I go to an arts university in Southern England. In fact it's a collection of art schools which formed together to create a meta-university a few years back -- binding together under one universal management and system of accounting and financial distribution.

Academic management became one, with different baronies, if you will, overseeing each of the campuses. Students Union also became one meta-union, with their own reps for each barony - lets call them Student Knights, for the sake of butchering language.

The course I'm in is kinda like a House within the overall Kingdom. There's the House of Fine Art, House of Journalism, House of Film & Video, and so forth. My House is incredibly small - where House of F&V have around 90 for the Class of '09 studying in my Barony/Campus alone, we have about 20 for the whole Uni.

We all pay the same taxes, er, Tuition to attend University, but because my course is so small, and because we're not meeting with the quota set out by the Administration, there have been funding cuts across all campuses.

Ours was for 35% of our budget.

They cut it out in the middle of the school year, over Xmas - modules that were supposed to be run this semester were cut, due to loss of funding. Two pathways were smooched together, forming one lumpy uneven module which is difficult to work with. One of my favourite lecturers had his teaching days cut from 25 to just 4, and that's only working with the second years, so we don't see him at all.

When one speaks about such things to the Uppers, we get a mixed reaction -- people are unwilling to talk about management issues with students, and I've been given somewhat sticky and unfocused responses. 'Oh everyone has cuts everywhere, next year it'll get sorted, we're trying to get more money back', etc., etc.

But nobody is telling me a concrete answer as to why we're getting these budget cuts, and why we're not being allocated the money that people in accounting said my course could have last year during budgeting.

People say it's because not enough people applied for my course, that's the problem, and because it's of a lesser interest to the people at the university it's financially less important and strategically doesn't generate enough revenue for the university as a whole.

Only here's the kicker; my course isn't advertised during open days or on university hand-outs. We have a small, vaguely worded description on the website and in the prospectus which is pretty damn irrelevant to the actual course itself.

So it seams to me that they're weeding out the course in a passive aggressive manner, but to make room for what? I'm not sure. And really it's a shame. I learn about digital video, graphics programs, 3D & special effects, film/media/culture theory & interactive design. Fundamentally it's a experimental video course, and it's pretty unique - anybody who's aware of the course who reads this will know it's name, and it does blow any sense of anonymity out of the water for me, but I care very little at this point.

When it boils down to it, I'm disappointed in the way that universities like mine are run: like a big business. Good courses are courses who do work which generates interest in the university and attracts other students and generates income for the university. But too much focus is being pushed on income and economics, and not enough is being focused on the most important issue: which is to provide the best educational service they can to students.

At the end of the day, due to the amassing of universities, all campuses must agree to a centralised set of rules, including an overall budget. Campuses which wanted to specialise in niche subjects are being penalised for their alternative content and smaller class size, and through that their budget is cut - thus the integrity of their teaching ability is compromised.

Before the universities merged, I was told that the funding for all courses were handled accurately and with better results. Part of the reason the university became one unified force was because they said they'd get better funding and everyone would be equal and well looked after. This is obviously not the case.

Correct me, by all means, if I am wrong; but it reminds me terribly of some botched Marxist nightmare. Ironic, since currently the public gallery is currently showing clips of animation throughout the ages: including the 1954 animated feature of Animal Farm.

...And I haven't even started on the student population.
Oh what a world!


madame said...

gamblin' Barbie
Math's not So Hard afterall

This feels like home.

please do get started on the student pop.

and, oh, i heart you.

fp said...

I heart you too, except probably not with such purity of intent as you're loving moms (piggish snort)... all stalking aside, this reminds me of my ever less recent nineties experience picking up an Executive MBA at an otherwise good school, but being taught by Professors of BUSINESS so how good could it be? The program was fairly new and it didn't have the typical budget problems that you find wherever important material is being taught, but nobody in the class thought it was higher education. It was a diploma mill run by an otherwise reputable school, a cash cow... or I s'pose you could call it a cash vache. Anyway, WE DARED NOT CRITICIZE IT. You see, to criticize it would diminish its reputation and a diminished reputation would make the degree less valuable on the J.O.B. market.

I can't help but offer advice, whether it's meaningful or not... so here's today's uninvited opinion:

If I were you, I would contact Edinburgh regarding transfer requirements. I would discretely discuss my desire for a broader deeper better program with a faculty member who had been exposed to the bright light of my intellect and whom I could expect to support my ambitions. When I knew where I wanted to go that was better than where I was at (for example, Edinburgh, where have haggis for dinner every day), I would call upon this faculty reference for help in getting gone. Just a thought. Another good approach is to gut it out through 2009, do good work and move on to somewhere that can provide you a graduate program that will fill in the undergraduate gaps.

Imagine my surprise and delight to come across this blog and see that I am in the Blogroll!!! Jmo, thank you for that.

fp said...

eew.. I said "you're loving moms" not "your loving moms" and she will laugh at me for that. prufread, prufrock.

madame said...

someday fp, we will have a two can play at this game. said...


Frank, Frank, Frank -- here's the problem! I really like my course - that is, I like the people, I like the basis of what they have to offer me, I like the teachers... For now.

Only thing I don't like is upper management. Before I do something brash like attempt an transfer, I'm going to try and see why management does what it does -- because gosh, maybe by the time this thing is over I could have changed some things.

... Man. All I need is a big magnifying glass and red houndstooth coat and I could be a bad 1950s girl detective. Oh, maybe a small puppy too.

And dude, you're my bloghomie now. Er, or something.


PS: hahaha, you're lovin' mom.