University is not school!?!

A colleague recently directed me to an article in The Telegraph which discusses the value of a university education. Joanna Williams asks ‘whether the value of a degree should be measured in potential future earnings or the immediacy of the student experience.’ However since the rise in fees for university tuition, there has been a marked increase in demand from our students for value for money and a desire to know what they are getting in return for those fees.

Rather than being provided with all of the learning content that they will need to pass an exam during their time in school and college, instead Williams argues that learners in Higher Education are encouraged ‘to take responsibility for their own learning, pursuing ideas and knowledge beyond the formal curriculum and developing an independent critique of the material they encounter.’

However, this method of learning does not come easily after a lifetime of conditioning to ‘learn’ in another. Part of our role as university educators has to be about teaching our students how learn and to re-program their learning practices to engage immersively in the subject specific content that their courses demand. This is an approach that has major success in the US through interventions such as the University 101 programme.

If we are going to complain if our students treat university like school, then perhaps we should take the time to educate them how to behave within a Higher Education learning context. To presume that they inherently know how to behave at university seems somewhat foolish when you consider that they have been learning, often quite successfully, in the way that their School education has taught them to do, probably for the last 14 years.

Okay, so you’ve passed your exams and you’ve secured a place at university. Well done, you!
Today we are going to throw away your rule book…

Read the article in full here.


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