Reps' Monthly Higher Education Update
This is a monthly update for our Reps on what’s going on in the Higher Education sector.
This month, Coventry University is participating in a campaign against cheating in academic assessments. Contract cheating is a problem at universities across the world, with a growing number of students handing in work for which they have paid someone else to write.
Many students are tempted to make use of the services of essay writers. Academic assessments can be difficult and stressful, leading students to pay for the help of a “professional” writer. Some students whose first language is not English may pay for help to write their assignments from so-called writing experts. Other students might see a way of managing to get their academic work done and enjoy their social lives at the same time by paying someone else to write their essay for them. (As one essay writing website says, “Being a student is not only about studying. It's about meeting people, travelling, trying out something brand new, and in the end, having fun.”)
Commissioning someone to write your assignments for you or handing in someone else’s work with your name on the top are examples of academic misconduct. It suggests dishonesty on the part of the student, who has not produced what they claim to have produced. It is also not beneficial to anyone in the long run – students do not develop themselves, academic or personally, if they pay other people to write their essays.
Some people don’t see a problem with paying for these services. After all, many essay writing businesses proudly claim to be offering professional, plagiarism-free content that is wholly within the bounds of the law. But not all essay writing services have your best interests at heart. Some students have paid for essays in order to submit them as their own work. After submitting their essays, these students have been told by the essays’ writers that, unless the students hand over a lot more money than previously agreed, the writers would inform the university that the students had been cheating.
Here’s an interesting BBC video into the foreign writers who will write students’ essay on their behalf.
If you know someone at Coventry University who is being put under pressure by an essay writing service, you should direct them to the Students’ Union Advice Centre.
Value for money?
The Office for Students, the independent regulator of higher education, published a strategy on ensuring students and taxpayers get “value for money” from higher education this month.
What is value for money? The Office for Students states: “Students get value for money when they experience the full benefits of higher education in exchange for the effort, time and money they invest.” The “full benefits” can come from a variety of sources: receiving a high quality of teaching, enjoying excellent facilities, having the ability to see your lecturers when you need their help, getting helpful feedback on your essays and so on.
Value for money means different things to different people. One important factor is the financial situation of the student. If a university education comes at a high financial cost to you, you may be more interested in making sure that all the money you give you to your university is worthwhile. Many students care about how their annual tuition fees are spent. Surveys indicate that the percentage of students who do not believe they have been provided with the right information about where their tuition fees go remains high.
There are many ways that students tell us if they feel they are getting value for money. One of these ways is the National Student Survey, which is open to all students in their final year of study. Some independent institutes and think tanks, such as the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), run their own surveys.
Following the results of the National Student Survey 2019, Coventry University and its affiliates in the CU Group are all working to improve the student experience. Our institutional initiative, Project Eagle, is designed to students’ NSS feedback and meet students’ needs.
For example, Coventry University is working on reducing the number of lectures that are cancelled and cutting the time it takes for academics to respond to students’ concerns as reported in Student Voice Forum meetings. CUSU will be working with Coventry University to run an “I love my course!” campaign later in the academic year.
Are you getting value for money from your degree?
HE news in brief
What else has been happening in the higher education sector? Here are some brief updates:
- Students are staying away from the counselling services their universities provide because they worry it will affect their academic standing, claims a Bath-based charity. Read Redbrick’s report here.
- “Our educational structures and institutions are a product of colonialism,” claims the National Union of Students in a new campaign to decolonise the education system. Read our Vice-President for Education’s thoughts on the matter here.
- King’s College, London and the University of Sussex are some of the universities that are in receipt of funding from a company accused of contributing to an opioid crisis in America.
- Alumni of the University of York have written a critical open letter to its new Vice-Chancellor after Hong Kong students were told to remove pro-democracy material in light of complaints from Chinese students. It’s one of a series of incidents between Hong Kong and Chinese students at British universities, inspired by political events in Hong Kong.
- Universities across the country have agreed to purchase energy from British windfarms. For £50,000,000, the universities will receive electricity from renewable sources for ten years.