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Money, marketing and dissatisfaction

By Mariya Hussain

Monday 12 January 2015 Student Journalists

Four fifths of university students feel that their degrees are not worth the money, a study conducted by student finance website Student Money Saver has found. This number is completely unacceptable, and one that reveals a big flaw in the way in which higher education and universities are seen and run, reports NUS Journalist Mariya Hussain.

The £9k fee hike has seen little improvement in teaching standards, something that was virulently promised by the government in 2010. Students can expect only up to 18 minutes extra teaching time a week and very minimal support when it comes to purchasing course materials, with the UUK saying there is 'little evidence that the reforms have improved incentives for institutions to pursue innovations in teaching'.

Lecturers and teaching staff have organised walkouts and threatened marking boycotts as a result of disputes over pay and many of the leading universities are refusing to lay out how tuition fees are spent at their institutions. Having to pay more, but not see any evidence of improved standards is a bitter pill to swallow, made worse by the lack of transparency at many universities which leaves many students feeling unable to hold their institutions to account.

Of course the fact that students will now graduate only to find themselves in tens of thousands of pounds in debt for the majority of their adult working lives, also leaves a bad taste in the mouth, as many students find that gaining a university degree doesn’t mean they will be in a job which will allow them to pay off the mass of debt accrued.

So if using the full £9k cap doesn’t bring about improvements in the student experience or innovation in teaching, then why do so many universities use them? The answer is in part one to do with marketing and appearance. Universities fear being viewed as second rate and so in an attempt to fall in line with the competition students the higher fees are used.

David Willets, ex Minister or Universities, and the government of 2010 proposed that capping fees at £9k would create a market where universities would compete on price; this has obviously not happened. Students are paying more not for improved education but instead for reputation.

The fact that tuition fees are being used in this way underlines a major failing in the way universities and higher education is seen. Education is not seen as a right, it is seen as a commodity and is treated as such. Universities are being run as businesses rather than institutes of learning, with £36m being spent on marketing in 2012-2013, an increase of 14 per cent from the year prior. Students may be attracted by the advertising, but they soon find that money is not being spent on improving education or supporting students.

This mindset of treating universities solely as businesses takes away from the student experience. It does a disservice to students attending university in an attempt to gain knowledge, to gain skills to use in and for society, and it impacts the advancement of society in a negative way.


My name is Mariya Hussain and I am currently in my second year of studying English at King’s College London. Education is something I am very passionate about. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to receive a quality education regardless of race, class, financial means or other causes that can limit a person’s access to education. As a result, I’m very happy to be writing on education!

I aspire to move further into journalism, and am excited to use and develop my skills whilst writing on the student perspective as an NUS Journalist. I’m also a photographer and enjoy using both words and images to share new and interesting stories.