Issue 213 Monday 9 March 2009
Bristol University’s independent student newspaper
Students demand change Clifton sex in historic rebellion attacker is charged
Man charged for four of recent assaults Suspect is not student as previously thought ELLIE HARVIE News Editor
Photo: John Edwards
A group of economics students argue students are short-changed by low number of contact hours University denies that top up fees were introduced to improve the quality of education provision WILLIAM IRWIN Editor A group of students in the Economics, Finance and Management department have submitted a series of complaints and demands to University academics. A document expressing their dissatisfaction with the quality of education on offer was submitted to the University on Thursday
19th February. The group of nine student reps as well as several other concerned students and led by third year representative Bob Denham, argue that Economics, Finance and Management (EFiM) students have not seen any rise in the quality of their education since the rise in Tuition fees in 2006. Top-up fees were raised on the premise that students would see their money go towards a higher level of education for them.
Eclectic Feel, alternative spring fashion, The Mix p.8-9
Mr Denham and his associates claim that students in their department are being short-changed, as no quality rise has been made. The lengthy document cites poor results in student satisfaction surveys, a fall in contact hours for students in recent years and the introduction of ‘peer-marking’, where students mark each others’ essays, as evidence for the department’s chronic failure to improve education. It points out that
in ten out of 18 categories in last year’s Student Satisfaction Survey, students’ satisfaction with EFiM fell. In every area of assessment in 2008 the department’s student approval rating was below the average for Economics departments nationally. In 9 of 21 categories approval ratings were more than 10% below the average for the worst 25% of national departments. Continued on page four
the percentage of teenagers in Britain that are using contraception
Police have arrested and charged a man in connection with the series of sex attacks in Cotham and Clifton. A 29 year old male from the Bedminster area of the city has been charged with four attacks, which occurred late last year. There were seven attacks in total, of which at least three were known to be on Bristol University students. Avon and Somerset constabulary told Epigram that the man is still being questioned over three further assaults on females. The man appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court on 26 February, and the case will be tried in a Crown Court, with a request for bail refused. The male has been charged with sexual assault, which can lead to ten years’ imprisonment if found guilty. At the period of attacks, Epigram spoke to a victim who had been assaulted whilst walking home from a night out along Alma Road in Clifton (Epigram 207). At the time, police had not publicly linked the series of sexual assaults, but later on announced that they were only seeking one suspect. One of the victims told Epigram that the attackers’ arrest was a “big relief.” The student, who had been attacked in October last year, said that she now feels she can “walk around at night and be less on edge.” Continued on page seven
“They were famously banned for riding a scooter across the bar” The View, Music, p.28-29
Issue 213 • Monday 9 march 2009
Editorial comment on the EFiM student rebellion
Research reveals the facts behind provide education worthy of stude Continued from page one The document has been developed in secrecy since December 2008 and has been the cause of a number of Freedom of Information requests. The students have been at pains to provide a watertight case, and have collected a wealth of supporting statistics from University figures, and The Higher Education Bill, which contained Tuition fee rise proposals. Denham says that the report aims to get private cost to equal private benefit. “Increased tuition fees have made Economics students worse off, and the department has failed to give its students what it promised. Our ultimate aim is to get a fairer chunk of the resources our top up fees provide.” The School of Economics, Finance and Management actually makes a profit for the University of Bristol: around £2million surplus each year, most of which is spent on other departments, leading to accusations from Denham that the University is exploiting it. “The University is a big entity. If economics makes a deficit, you wouldn’t want the money not to go to the economics department. But the extent to which this is happening isn’t right. Last year all our money went to other departments. There aren’t enough guarantees that the money [from tuition fees] goes to our education.” Economics and Politics student, Oliver Capel describes the quality of education as ‘inconsistent to poor’ telling Epigram “I didn’t have a single tutorial in my second year... The quality of teaching definitely has not improved since the introduction of tuition fees. I’m completely in favour of what the representatives are trying to do.” Economics students have shown their support for the proposals, with over 600 signatures on the petition.
The group insist that their complaints should not be seen as an attack on the University or the department, aiming instead to “call for co-operation from the administration of EFiM and the University” and “look forward to productive discussions”. Mr Denham confirmed that the students have strong support from significant academics across the University, “It’s understandably frustrating for them. It is part of their job as academics to teach these people. They are not being given enough resources to be able to do this. We’ve contacted MPs as well.” The School has sent staff an e-mail instructing them not to comment on the matter to anyone. In a significant statement to Epigram, Barry Taylor, the University’s Communications and Marketing Director indicated that the University of Bristol believes that top-up fees does not obligate the University to improve the level of education it offers: “the introduction of top-up fees was not about this and the Vice-Chancellor did not say that it was. He and others simply reflected on the fact that when people pay more for something, their expectations rise”. The reaction of the School of Economics, Finance and Management has been one of respect for the work done by the students. David Winter, the Head of Undergraduate Studies at the School said “It’s a good report. As economics students it’s natural they should be interested in resource allocation. I welcome it”. Taylor agreed that the students have put forward a number of ‘positive ideas’ and that “in many respects the document is an impressive piece of work.” However, criticism of the document has also come from within EFiM. Winter claimed students have misunderstood how the University’s finance works and as a result “have made some false statements.” Second year representative Roderick McKinley described such criticisms as “just patronising”. The progress of the rebellion can be followed online at epigram.org.uk/topupfees.
Photo: John Edwards
Response of the University to student action is not yet known
“The introduction of top-up fees was not about this [that teaching quality ought to rise with them] and the vicechancellor did not say that it was.” -Barry Taylor, UoB Director of Communications and Marketing, 4 March 2009
“I’ve only had one piece of work marked and handed back this whole academic year and seminars aren’t seminars, they’re mini-lectures” -Jack Burrows, first year, BSc Economics
Data gathered by the group of students illustrates injustice of finances ELLIE HARVIE News editor The statistics used by the group of students show a startling pattern of satisfaction declining whilst revenue from top-up fees rises. The levels of student satisfaction, as measured by the National Student Survey 2007/08, show that satisfaction across all categories in the school of Economics, Finance and Management (EFiM)) as those of personal development, course teaching, learning resources, assessment and feedback and overall satisfaction saw Bristol’s department fall a full 12% below the national average for satisfaction in the same degree programme. The survey identified the areas at which Bristol’s school of EFiM is failing its students
at an undeniable level; in the areas of personal development and learning resources in all EFiM degree programmes, the enormity of Bristol’s student satisfaction-league table dichotomy is seen. The students in the final year of their degrees scored the school in these two areas as over 10% poorer than the 25% worst departments nationally for these subjects, whilst economics holds ninth position nationally in the Times Good University Guide. In only two areas was student satisfaction above that of the worst 25% department equivalents nationally; the rating for the teaching on the economics course scored 3% higher than the other worst performers, and the overall satisfaction for finance degrees was superior to the lowest quartile by a mere 1%. The research by the group of students illustrated the jump in revenue received by the university upon the introduction of top-up fees in 2006. The funds which are
accrued from top up fees are over double what the students would have contributed had the top up not been introduced. The total now obtained from students’ fees stands at 4.35 million pounds, and that of top up fees stands at 2.29 million pounds of the total amount in 2008. The numbers show the university failed to meet its promises over seminar sizes; the 2008/09 undergraduate prospectus for EFiM lists seminars of “around fifteen people.” However, this year’s first year EFiM students have reported seminars of up to 25 people, over 166% the size of the class originally promised. The students gathering the statistics did so through the e Freedom of Information Act (FoI). Dean Gibbs, a third year Economics and Management student who headed the statistical research, said of the the data that the findings “were larger than first imagined”. He told Epigram that “they completely back up the theoretical evidence.”
Monday 9 march 2009 • Issue 213
Follow the progress of the EFiM rebellion online
University’s failure to ents’ top-up fee bill
The situation in other UoB departments Philosophy (BA): Tuition Fees - £3,145 First year : 8 hours Second year: 6.5 hours Third Year: 4 hours
History (BA): Tuition Fees - £3,145
“Undergraduate tuition fees bring with [them] fresh obligations to our students.”
Pictured left: Bob Denham talks with EFiM student representatives during a meeting
-Vice-Chancellor Prof. Eric Thomas, June 2003
For the calculation of revenue the number of deferred entry students who do not pay top-up fees is estimated. The size of seminar classes for first year’s this year is an average over all units. The student satisfaction data is from The National Student Satisfaction Survey 2007/2008, and the average satisfaction percentages across all categories are those for EFiM at Bristol and for all Economics departments nationally.
University refused EFiM vital funds despite huge top-up fee income WILLIAM IRWIN Editor Epigram has learnt that Bristol University has expressly refused the School of Economics, Finance and Management funds that it needs to educate its students. This year the School of Economics, Finance and Management (EFiM) overshot its admissions by 105 students – almost one third of the total number of incoming students originally planned. The budget for the department was set on 1 July 2008. Consequently, EFiM was not originally allocated enough funds to pay for the satisfactory education of the number of pupils it subsequently admitted. When EFiM asked the University for more money, it was told that the University would not offer more funds.
First year : 6 hours Second year: 2 hours Third Year: 4 hours
Politics (BSc): Tuition Fees - £3,145 First year : 6 hours Second year: 6 hours Third Year: 4 hours
Sociology (BSc): Tuition Fees - £3,145 First year : 6 hours Second year: 6 hours Third Year: 6 hours
Chemistry (BSc): Tuition Fees - £3,145 First year : 20 hours Second year: 24 hours Third Year: 21 hours
“Our relationship with our students is changing and their expectations, quite rightly, The increase in student numbers has put pressure on department resources, to the detriment of first years’ education. No lecture hall in the University is large enough to accommodate all first year pupils; for mandatory units students have been forced to perch in the aisles of lecture theatres. In addition, this year’s University prospectus promised seminar groups of ‘about 15’; first year seminars involve 25 or 26 pupils. Jack Burrows, a first year Economics student told Epigram that the experience of being a first year student in the School is “hugely disappointing”. He said “I’ve only had one piece of work marked and handed back this whole academic year”. Barry Taylor told Epigram “that this problem has arisen through nobody’s fault, and that when the faculty and the school are faced with a problem, wherever possible it is expected that they will manage their own affairs and manage the vissicitudes within the budget.” This expectation has resulted directly in the neglect of first
year economics, finance and management students. Furthermore, Epigram has calculated that the extra students admitted to the School of Economics, Finance and Management this year made an overall payment of approximately £800,000 in tuition fees. This is less than any reasonable estimate of the ‘marginal cost’ of providing education for these additional students. When asked, a spokesman for the University did not know for certain where the tuition fees of the surplus students were spent The University of Bristol usually receives a set amount of funding from the government body HEFCE for each of a quota of domestic students taught in any department. They did not receive HEFCE funds for these students, and will have been fined a sum of around £100 for each student admitted over quota. But, Epigram believes that the University of Bristol was paid enough money to cover the cost of educating these
extra students from tuition fees alone, taking this fine into account, and that it refused to pass that money on to EFiM. As such, the University’s decision cannot be defended on the grounds that to provide money for extra teaching would have been an intolerably great expense to them. If the University disagrees, it needs to provide its own estimate of the marginal cost of education, and provide an explanation of how the top up fee was spent. This discovery also illustrates the significance of the sum of money that the University receives in tuition fees. This amount may not be enough to run the entire department, but it is probably more than the marginal cost of teaching additional students once the teaching of a certain number has already been arranged. EFiM student representatives will surely use this to strengthen their argument that, given the amount that students are paying for tuition, they should receive a higher quality of education.
-Vice-Chancellor Prof. Eric Thomas, 8 December 2006
All contact hour figures are average estimates based on information published on UoB department websites
FOI requests and their role in the EFiM discoveries A freedom of information request is a request sent to a public institution asking for information. That insitiution is legally obliged to: - Confirm whether it holds the information - Providing a copy or summary of the information, or arrange for you to inspect the information - Tell you why it has withheld the information The Freedom of Information Act 2000 guarantees the public’s ‘right to know’. For further information regarding the University of Bristol and freedom of information requests see: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/foi/ Anyone can make a freedom of information request to the University, by e-mailing: email@example.com.
Monday 9 march 2009 • Issue 21
Editorial Epigrump The bane of work experience W o r k experience is the bane of my life at the moment. It doesn’t help that I’m not entirely sure what I want to be doing with my life after university. I’m exactly half way through my university career now, so that means that this summer is the last summer where I could either do nothing, go on holiday, or, get work experience, before I need to start thinking about applying for a real job. So, on contemplation as to what I could see myself doing, I got in contact with a family friend who works for the BBC. In the journalist industries everyone harks on about how it’s who you know, not what you know. Or not. The BBC has now set up a nice contrived system, which involves you applying centrally, through the website. Very impersonal and a bit of a waste of time. Most of the questions ask you the same thing, in about five different ways, so it takes roughly two hours to answer six questions and of course you fail miserably, because deep down, you know it’s a lost cause and you’ll never get the placement anyway. But it’s like the lottery really; you’ve got to be in it to win it. Someone has got to get those two placements they give out a year… it could be me. And another thing, all of those industries that we’re interested in are rather quickly falling victim to the recession, and so the number of jobs available is shrinking at the speed of light, while the number of people wanting the jobs is ever increasing. Great. So, if we want to get into these industries, we need to really want it. However, as I said, I’m not entirely certain what I do want to do, so the point of the work experience is to help me decide, but it sounds like I can’t even get that unless I really want it. So I’ve found myself in a lovely Catch-22 situation. So if you don’t know what you want to do, you’re not alone. But don’t panic, enjoy the rest of uni, after all, this is the only time in our lives when we can get away with the bare minimum but still feel like we’re getting somewhere. Don’t let the future get you down, maybe if we approach it with a more positive attitude, things will start going our way. Emily Shankar
Campaign’s significance more than just document
University must offer a proper argument
Books one of the first casualties of recession for Uni
The campaign by students enrolled in the School of Economics, Finance and Management (EFiM) is unprecedented. Students of this generation have never before marshalled such a compelling argument against the continued reduction of the quality of their education. The EFiM campaign’s level of organisation sets it apart.Significantly, they use the University’s own words and data to condemn it. The campaign is buoyed by financial data obtained through numerous freedom of information requests, and quotations from the Vice-Chancellor himself. The simplicity of the argument amplifies it’s significance: tuition fees were designed to improve the education of the paying student. Yet, this is not the case. It must be remembered that the situation in EFiM will be paralelled
Students enrolled in the School of Economics, Finance and Management have demanded a better education from the University. Significantly, they claim to have evidence to back up their claims. The onus is now on Bristol University to prove that tuition fees exactly benefit those who pay, as the Government once promised. Nit-picking by the University will not refute the arguments, because they are simple. To disprove the campaign’s claims, the University must attempt a knockdown argument. The student representatives have access to only a small proportion of information about how the University is run. Of course the University can criticise details of the argument. But criticism of detail should not be accepted by students as proof of the falsity of the representatives’ case.
The recent freeze on book buying by departments in the arts and social sciences faculty has shown the first indication of the impact of the financial crisis on the university’s education provision. Epigram were assured that the 6 month halt on purchases will not affect teaching or quality of academic resources, as all books necessary for this year’s modules were bought at the beginning of the academic year, but it does beg the question of where the university’s priorities lie. The recent, six-month long refurbishment of the ASSL was described by Vice-Chancellor Eric Thomas as an costing about two million pounds. There is no doubt that the refurbishment is attractive and works well, but students would like some more books. It is a shame that the recession is having the impact that it is.
by other departments in the University of Bristol. It is reasonable to assume that other departments have a similar financial structure to EFiM, especially those in the faculties of Social Sciences and Law, and Arts. Thus, one can infer that if this is happening in EFiM, then it is highly likely that similar is happening elsewhere at Bristol University. Furthermore, it may awaken students from other UK universities to the situation. The Vice-Chancellor of this University is a vocal proponent of lifting the cap on tuition fees, and there is a growing national consensus behind his advocacy. The marketisation of higher education is not a debate for these pages, but this campaign shows that students expect tuition fees to improve the quality of their education, as promised. Above all, they are demanding respect.