Tuition fees won’t fill the funding cuts gap

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Everyone knew we were heading for big cuts. We all knew that tuition fees would rise in 2012. What we didn’t know was that for those of us studying before the dreaded rise in fees, big cuts to our funding would still apply.

Many of us who are in our second year at university were probably rejoicing that we would leave higher education before the increased fees came in; it’s a shame that the education system has come to this but at least I will not personally be paying so much for my education. But what was ignored was that the funding cuts that the increased fees will cover will come into effect a year before the increase in fees, leaving a massive gap in the University’s funding for that year.

In my department rumours started flying the end of last term that all of the half unit choices for next year were being cut. It turns out that only most of them are being cut, not all. Less choice and control over our own degrees, and disappointment at not being able to take modules we were offered when choosing Lancaster has left many disheartened. Comments on the Facebook group for English students range from students feeling cheated to some not even being able to choose which modules to take next year as none of the few available appeal to their interests. Not one of the comments is solely positive. The half units have dropped from 17 in 2010-11 to just eight to choose from for 2011-12, three of which have always been given from another department.

This may just seem like a slight issue. We are lucky to be at university at all and what does it matter what books we read on a course as long as we come out with a degree at the end of it. It is exactly this kind of mentality that is ruining higher education. There is too much focus on the piece of paper at the end of a degree scheme and not enough on what we are actually learning and enjoying during the time we are learning it. No, a future employer is not going to care whether we took the Shakespeare module or the module on inter-war writing: the changes being made are not going to have a massive effect on a future career.

But I am taking this degree partially to get a job and partially because I enjoy studying literature. I am paying to study the texts I want to study and now nearly 50 percent of them are being taken away from me. A module in women’s writing in itself wouldn’t secure me a job, but interest and enthusiasm for the topic might just boost a grade up a few marks and achieve that prized first class degree we are all dreaming of. That would be something a future employer will care about.

Granted, all the courses offered are of a high quality but there simply needs to be more choice. The departments have done their best to offer a good range given the lack of funding they have next year, but it’s not, nor is it anywhere near, the range of courses we were offered when we applied to Lancaster. Perhaps some of us would have made different decisions when filling in our UCAS forms had these modules originally been offered.

I commend the departments for doing their utmost to ensure that student do not suffer to greatly in this year of uncertainty. It is not the departments that cut our funding, it is the government. And it is with the changes to higher education that it makes, not the later changes departments are forced to make, that I take issue.

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