For the past two years I have been a part-time, distance learning student on the Internet Law LLM course at the University of Strathclyde. Despite enjoying the content of the course itself, and the expertise of the lecturers in my department, the overall student experience as a whole has been almost overwhelmingly negative.
Let me be clear: individual staff members have been quick to respond to any issues, and as helpful as one would expect from an institution of higher education. However, the policies of the University suck – demonstrating a complete lack of concern for the welfare of their students. For that reason, I not only take no pride in being associated with Strathclyde, but also would not consider undertaking further courses there in the future – at least not as a paying consumer.
Here are two examples of why:
1. Increased fees without warning.
When I signed up for my course, it was a part-time, distance course. That meant that it would span over 2 years. By its nature, it could not be completed quicker. When I went to register for my second year of tuition, I was greeted with the news that my fees were no longer £3,300 as before, but £3,700 – four times the rate of inflation at the time. This would have been fair enough had I just signed up to a new course, and thus agreeing to the increased fees, but I was a continuing student. My course was pretty much worthless unless I continued on with the second year, and so I was at the whim of whatever increases the University decided to impose – even when they were as substantial as this.
I was about to embark upon a lengthy immigration process to bring Grace over to the UK, and so every penny counted. I had budgeted extremely carefully to ensure that I had enough to pay the fees in the period provided, and to suddenly be told – at the point of registration – that the cost was now £400 higher was a shock. Even more galling was the fact that the University made Masters students sign a declaration stating that they understood the importance of budgeting properly, as we were responsible for the financial commitment.
Yeah, good one guys.
Only after I kicked up a huge stink online (as well as querying why distance students were paying around £850 more per year than attending students), did I get anybody to give me the time of day. Despite being very friendly, it was clear that there was little they could do, except lay out the party line:
The University accepts that the process by which continuing students are advised could be improved and a review of how this could be done is already underway.
As I put it in my correspondence to them at the time:
I am pleased to hear that there is a review underway to address the concerns I have raised for future students. However, this means little to my situation. It seems that the answer is essentially: “Too bad.
I work hard to structure my life in order to responsibly finance my life and the degree, and feel like this effort has been ridden roughshod over by the commercial interests of the University – who don’t even seem that bothered.
After a lot of correspondence, there was only one route left open: to go through a formal complaint process. The prospect of having to do this whilst switching job, taking on the UK immigration process, and studying for a Masters seemed like too much to take, so I swallowed it.
2. No student card for you!
Originally I was issued a student card for a period of 12 months. After that 12 months, I wrote to have it renewed, and received a new card for my second year of study – expiring in October 2014. The result of a late re-sit of one of my modules meant that the submission of my dissertation is now due in March 2015.
Noticing that my student card was set to expire, I e-mailed to get my card renewed for the next academic period. I was informed that I would not receive a new card, as these are only issued for the ‘minimum period of study i.e. 24 months.’
Ignoring the fact that I was issued two separate cards for 12 months each, I can’t quite believe that this is the policy of the University. When I queried how I was meant to get into the library (you know, to write my dissertation) I was told that I would need to get a letter from my department to confirm I still needed access.
This is complete madness. I am a student at the University. I am writing a dissertation, yet I am not allowed a student card to cover that period? Yet another example of a blanket policy imposed that completely neglects to take into account the standard of student experience. Why should I need to get a letter from a department to confirm that I am a student, when I am still enrolled? Something that is such a small detail to the University, but which has a big impact on my student experience. Oh, and don’t forget that I have paid them £7000 for this pleasure.
I’ve e-mailed to ask for further details of why such a policy is in place, but have yet to hear back at time of writing. I will update this if and when I get a response.
These are just two examples of occasions where I have run into a wall when dealing with the University.
I enjoy my course. The content is interesting, and the lecturers have been helpful and responsive – but the overall attitude of the University to student experience sucks. There seems to be absolutely no concern at an upper level for student concerns, and it’s left me feeling more of a burden than a part of the community – sadly overshadowing the positives of the course itself.
Next time I choose to spend thousands of pounds on education, I won’t be doing so with Strathclyde University.
Update: One day after writing this blog I have heard back from the University about point 2 above. The person who I was in correspondence with dealt with my frustration admirably, and has raised the issue with her manager. As a result, they are sending out a new student card that is valid until the end of my time as a student at Strathclyde. I’m pleased about this income, but disappointed that I had to kick up such a fuss over something that would have been so easily fixed.