Saturday, 10 March 2007
Some are more = than Others
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!