Today: The £9000 Niggle

7 Jun

Tuition fees go up to a maximum of £9000 a year, and it has raised quite an important question:

Is it all really worth it?

A good question, however it is one that has been raised before, in the 2006/7 entry year the fees went up to £3000, this was the year before I went to university.

Alot of my peers decided they would go, on account of all the important people telling us that it was worth the money. I have to say that I agree with the prediction, it was worth the money – overall.

There are many of my university colleagues  however who thought it wasn’t worth it. Many who only get 3 hours of contact time a week, 36 hours of contact a semester, 72 across the whole of one academic year.  £42 (ish) per lecture attended. This is mainly speaking for the BA people out there, yes I know you had to put as much work in as I did (in your final year at least) but we are talking about financially worth it.

See, doing a Physics and Astronomy degree, I had about 20 contact hours. With lab time. so in one month I had out stripped the BA people for an entire academic year. So in the 12 weeks of one semester, I have had more contact time than they will get in their entire degree. Worth it?

One of the things that a recent report has brought up is that the teaching hasn’t improved.

No Shit.

I was lucky, I had a spectrum of different lecturers to give me a great insight into my degree, I had great ones, I had shockingly uninterested ones and I had those who just gave enough to get enough.

Now the shockingly uninterested ones really couldn’t charm a prostitute into bed, they dragged on and made the lectures feel like they went on for about 4 hours (5 if you were hungover).

I had lecturers who were really knew their stuff. Like they knew more about it that the wikipedia article could ever explain. But they just wanted to talk… alot… and we didn’t really learn much, we ended up having to question spot. Which was unfortunate because I really really enjoyed the subject that this one lecturer taught.

The lecturers who could get me to do the work for the lectures I hated (Maths… any maths and horrific particle Physics. ) I admired. I found it interesting that they left parts blank, meaning I asked questions, which got me to do the work. I hated it, please don’t think I enjoyed it, but I found it interesting and satisfying when I could finally answer a question.

The great lecturers took what I was already interested in and  blew it out the water. They really mixed up what I thought was happening and it was like they opened up a whole new world.

I’ll name my top 3 modules for my degree and why I like them. This is purely on how it was taught to me, and how I reacted. even if I hated the subject – and what’s surprising is that none of them are practical ones:

3. High Energy Astrophysics – I had heard ominous predictions about the lecturer of this course, but it turned out to be one of the most interesting lectures I have ever been in. The topics we covered were all brand new to me, and every question that I asked I got an honest answer back. I didn’t get a watered down “Well.. you know what a photon is” lecture, I got a scientist to scientist response. Any help I needed all I had to do was ask. It definitely wasn’t my best mark. But it was an enjoyable to lecture to sit in. Even if the lectures were on a FRIDAY BLOODY AFTERNOON.

2. Statistical Mechanics – I hate maths. I really don’t understand what the hell went through any of the great mathematicians minds when they came up with the crap we have to learn, but for me I was sleeping. I can do applied maths stuff, I can use maths to solve a real world problem, but as for maths for maths sake? No thanks. So this lecture course was a struggle for me. With one difference. I have no idea how this guy did it, but I was fascinated in how many things this one bloody method could be used on.  I was panicking like mad before the exam, but I came out of it with a high 2:1. That is the result I am most proud of. I managed to get 50’s in my other maths modules, and high 60’s in this. I just enjoyed figuring it out!

1. Physics of Stars – This was a module like no other. It had all the Astronomy you could ever imagine, and it was taught like a maths module. Wait – yes I am aware that I said above that I hate maths, but this was astronomy maths. This was maths that you could build from the base up, you could build from addition all the way up to calculating the gravitational strength of a star. So much information was suddenly opened up to me from this one module, it was honestly like I had absorbed a book by fusion. (Was going to say osmosis, but thought I would stay on-topic).

So is university worth it?

I can say that 60% of my modules I enjoyed enough to remember them.

The rest I just turned up to to pass, whether this number is the same for others out there I’m not sure on. But I didn’t just get a degree out of my university experience. There are more things to life.

£9000 doesn’t count against you, the 4 x £9000 some will pay won’t count against them. I’m currently in £27000 worth of debt, and I don’t even pay off the interest I earn on that a month. Which is a failure of the Students Loan Company, as well as the Govenment for mot regulating it properly. A graduate tax? Maybe, but My debt should be getting smaller. Not bigger.

That is another blog entirely however.

Go to university, If you want to expand on what you know, or get the professional qualification you want, then go. It will build a hell of a lot more life experience than you expect, much more than living with your parents will for 3 years.

As Nike would say: Just do it. 



3 Responses to “Today: The £9000 Niggle”

  1. Richard Spenceley (@Spence1115) 07/06/2012 at 22:42 #

    In the end, what else are you going to do for 3-4 years? Get a job? Where, what jobs can you get without a degree these days anyway? Yay, no theoretical debt that doesn’t count like real debt, no-one is going to come along and repossess your education, so fuck it, if there’s something you wanna do with your life, go study it and go do it. Just take it seriously enough to make it worthwhile going.

  2. Jonathan Bancroft 09/06/2012 at 19:24 #

    Great article.
    I’d say the other thing people need to consider is what they want to get out of it.
    There are some jobs you simply could not get without a decent degree. And if you want to do it to expand your knowledge then yes it’s a good idea (but I think you’ve covered that).
    Just doing a degree for the sake of it, or because your school teachers say it’s a good idea, I’d say isn’t a smart move.
    Most of the richest, happiest, people I know are doing something they love and are passionate about, and haven’t wasted 3 years on a degree they don’t need.


  1. Teaching (about) Physics « In the Dark - 10/06/2012

    […] day that a former student from the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University posted an item on her blog giving her view of her degree. It’s a very frank assessment of her own opinion of the course […]

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