Students aren’t passionate about their subjects any more, say lecturers

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

‘I honestly don’t feel I have learned much. It’s too much theory and not enough practice. I’m learning about out-of-date technologies.’
John, 22, loathes his degree, a BSc in network computing. He says his main reason for applying to do the course was that it would lead to a good job.

Tom, 22, wasn’t thinking about jobs when he decided on a BA in 3D design and materials at Brighton University. ‘It’s the best course ever,’ he says. ‘I think about it all the time. I came to university not to get a piece of paper that proved I had a degree, but because my subject seemed like the right thing for me to do.’

Which student is more typical of undergraduates today – the one who chooses their degree for the love of it or the one who’s thinking about job prospects? It’s the latter, vice-chancellors and lecturers told Education Guardian this week.

They say undergraduates these days do not necessarily expect to love their subject the way they did a decade or more ago.

Professor Patricia Broadfoot, head of Gloucestershire University, and Professor Michael Thorne, head of Anglia Ruskin University, admit their evidence comes from talking to students, not hard data.

They give three main reasons why student attitudes have changed:

· Students have taken on board the government’s message that a degree is a passport to the world of work;

· A ceaseless concentration on exams and coursework in school stops pupils cultivating a love for a subject;

· Tuition fees have led some students to think exclusively about the financial return on the cost of their degree.

Of course, a lot of students do feel passionate about their degree subjects, as Tom does, the vice-chancellors say. ‘Many do PhDs, and that is proof of real love for a subject,’ says Thorne. ‘But the majority are now there to work within the confines of the course, and aren’t prepared to go outside them.

‘Students arrive at university focusing on jobs; that is the most important thing to them. We are seeing more and more of an attitude of ‘if it’s not in the exam or coursework, I’m not doing it’. You can’t expect students to read around a subject for the love of it any more.’

(Via Read the rest….)


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