Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Note of an informal meeting with students at Liverpool Hope University on 23 March 2009


Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee:

  Mr Phil Willis MP, Chairman

Mr Graham Stringer MP

Mr Gordon Marsden MP

Liverpool Hope University students:

  Ms Amanda Dalzell, Education

  Ms Claire Frost (Student Union Vice President)

  Mr Javed Munshi, Human biology and education

  Mr Simon Parker, Film & creative writing

  Ms Belinda Shaw, Human biology and psychology

University of Liverpool student:

  Ms Danielle Grufferty (Guild President)

  Committee Members put a number of questions to the students and this note records the points made in reply.


  Mr Willis asked what factors had influenced the students' decisions to apply to a university in Liverpool and about the quality of advice available from their schools' careers advisers.

  Several students said that university was seen as a natural progression from school with teachers encouraging them to apply to university. One student added that attending university was "cultural", and that students attended university for the life experience rather than for the qualification that they may or may not attain. It was also suggested that university was a "breeding ground" for creative thinking and a place to meet like-minded people and be inspired. One student had come to university following redundancy in mid-career.

  Experience of careers advice varied: one said it had been comprehensive; another said it had focused on highlighting the skills needed to undertake a degree course; and another said it had focused on advising on science courses and that subjects in the Arts "fell by the wayside". One student identified a need for career service advisers to inform Level 3 NVQ students that this qualification provided an access route to university.

  Several students said that family encouragement had been the principal motivation for their application to university. Three of the Liverpool Hope University students were the first members of their family to enter into higher education.


  Mr Stringer asked about the impact of variable tuition fees and the part that debt played in their decision to study. Several said that they had started before the new variable fee regime had been introduced. It was generally agreed that the current fee of £3,000 was acceptable, although several students remarked but that if it had been any higher they may not have had the financial resource to have entered into their degree course. One student said, however, that, if the new arrangements had been in place when she applied, it might have deterred her application. Another said that the fees were a struggle, particularly for mature students with family commitments. One student commented that working and studying habits had been affected by the need to have a part-time job. It was noted that Liverpool Hope had good support arrangements in place which included offering jobs around the campus to students and that it was often possible to provide employment opportunities with relevance to an individual's programme of study. Several students considered that education should be free.

  The Guild President of the University of Liverpool said that the operation of the fees arrangements would be improved if the Government worked harder to remove the misconceptions about the system—for example, that fees had to be paid up-front. In her view there was no financial barrier to entry into university, rather barriers were "cultural", and she noted those in the lowest socio-economic groups had their costs covered.


  Mr Marsden asked about the quality of teaching. All the students considered that university teaching staff were approachable and enthusiastic and that lecturers were happy to speak with them on an individual basis to provide fuller explanations of the taught material. It was estimated that between 20 and 40 students were present in 2nd and 3rd year undergraduate lectures at Liverpool Hope University.

  All the students understood that at least some of their lecturers were research active. Several of the students from Liverpool Hope University were assisting on research projects and two were delivering research papers at a conference. It was noted that Liverpool Hope was developing a reputation for, and expertise in, research. One student believed it was unnecessary for lecturers to be research active and that non-research active staff were better teachers as they had more time to get to know their students. The others believed, however, research active staff to be the most enthusiastic and best equipped lecturers.


  Students were asked whether plagiarism was a problem. They all said that their university had made clear what plagiarism was and that this information was embedded in the student handbook. One student felt that lecturers would easily pick up plagiarism as the style of any copied text would be different to the rest of an individual's written work. The Vice-President of Liverpool Hope University's Student Union explained that the institution's student services department provided tutoring on what did and did not constitute plagiarism together with tutorials on "how to write".

March 2009

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