Increased tuition fees buy less teaching time

Students paying £9,000 fees receive fewer hours of tuition than their counterparts who paid no fees fifty years ago.

Half a century ago, academics spent 55 per cent of their time teaching. The Social Market Foundation now reports that this figure has shrunk to 40 per cent as staff focus on gaining research-generated grants to supplement tuition fees and decreased government funding.

These figures are based on 31 institutions in existence in 1963, which were surveyed as part of the Robbins report of that year.

Meanwhile, Higher Education Policy Institute and Which? Magazine reveals that students at Russell Group universities, made up of 24 institutions, spend 1.6 hours per week in groups of one to five students; 2.5 hours in groups of six to 15; 3.1 hours in groups of 16 to 50 and 5.7 hours in classes of 50 students or over.

Staff at better-established universities spend a greater proportion of their time researching than those at more modern institutions, in order to maintain their reputation as research-led, elite universities. Academics in post-1992 universities spend 89 per cent of their time teaching and 11 per cent researching.

Universities minister David Willetts is now calling for universities to publish the sizes and numbers of tutorials and seminars.

He commented: “Parents talk to their student children about their university timetable and query whether they are getting value for money. ‘You really only get three hours of lectures a week? How much time do you spend in the lab? What do you mean, you haven’t sat down with any of the professors yet?’ With the advent of higher fees, such questions are becoming more insistent.”