When Rhydian Emlyn-Williams went to Leeds University to study Chinese, he hoped it would set him on the path to a great career. He soon became disillusioned.
“In the first year I had friends who had just four hours of lectures a week,” he said. “There was not enough organised work for them and it was too easy for people to lose their way. A lot of time was spent drinking.”
After two years he quit. Six months later, he joined Sandhurst military training college and went on to serve in Afghanistan. He now thinks that universities don’t “set you up for the world of work.”
The Sunday Times’s education columnist Chris Woodhead has had a postbag of letters in recent weeks from demoralised students and their parents. Kids are taking on huge debts – fees for a year’s teaching at most universities are now £9000 a year – but they are not always getting the teaching , back up and support they need.
They are dropping out in large numbers – with nothing to show for one or two years of study except letters from the Student Loans Comapny demanding repayment of their loans.
Some get depressed – pastoral care in universities leaves much to be desired in too many cases.
Last week Larry Summers – ex Harvard president – (remember him from The Social Network? He’s the one who was pretty sarcastic when the Winklevoss twins turned up in their office claiming that Facebook was their idea originally) told me in an interview for The Sunday Times that universities might consider some changes.They could usefully teach students how to work in teams, they should send them all abroad for part of their degree and they should let them use videoed lectures from world experts so that local lecturers would be freed up to give more one to one tuition.
Would that improve British students experience? If you have had a bad deal at a British uni please tweet me at @siangriffiths6