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York in bottom five for contact hours of History and Physics

It has emerged that York is one of the worst universities in the UK in terms of contact hours for some subjects, with history students receiving the least contact hours of any institution in the UK

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Contact hours for Physics are in the bottom five of all universities Phot Credit: Petroc Taylor
Contact hours for Physics are in the bottom five of all universities Photo Credit: Petroc Taylor


It has emerged that York is one of the worst universities in the UK in terms of contact hours for some subjects. A report by a national newspaper has found history students receive the least contact hours of any University in the UK.

Using official figures from Uniststats, a government website, the report found that for some subjects students get less than half the hours of teaching in seminars and tutorials than other universities.

One of the largest gaps in the country is for students studying History at the University. Only eight per cent of history students' course is lectures and seminars. This leaves them with less than 100 hours contact time with lecturers and academics, at a cost of up to £100 an hour.

In comparison, Northampton provides 372 hours of teaching time, or 31%, and charges fees of £8, 500, slightly below the maximum charge that York students pay.

Others in the top five for contact hours were Glamorgan with 348 contact hours (29%), Bath and Central Lancashire with 336 hours (28%), and University College London with 324 (27%).

Also concerning for York is that it also ranked low for Physics, one of it's more intensive courses. York was in the bottom five for contact hours for the subject on 276 hours or 23%, just behind Oxford on 288 hours (24%)

In contrast, Imperial College topped the number of contact hours with 516 contact hours (43%), with Salford second on 480 hours (40%), and Birmingham, Liverpool, and Kent third equal on 444 hours (37%).

York was by far the lowest in the UK on 96 hours, with Royal Holloway second lowest on 144 hours.

Anthony Seldon, education expert and master of the independent school Wellington College, who is speaking at York next week said: "The majority of students have a tremendous time at university and are appreciative of that."

However he added: "But increasingly we hear of disappointment in the low level of demand placed on them and the lack of quality time with academics and personal attention."

Earlier in the week Nouse reported how York was ranked 37th for student experience in a survey by Times Higher Education.

While this is an improvement it was still a disappointing result for the University, with the cities second institution York St John finishing ninth. Teaching is a substantial measure of this survey and the latest comparisons show this is a big issue for the University.

The history department has defended it's position saying it offers one-to-one drop-in sessions and dissertation supervision that cannot be reflected in the statistics compiled from Unistats, a government website.

YUSU President, Kallum Taylor commented: "Whilst the number of contact hours is a very poor measure of the quality of the education provided, it is clear that there are still some cases at York where students receive an exceptionally low number of contact hours.

"Departments and the University need to think very carefully about what is the minimum level of contact hours students should receive, especially when they are paying at least £9,000 (with international students and some postgraduates paying far more)."

He added: "Whilst the key driver for course design should be what is appropriate to the discipline and level of study, there should be a minimum standard for the amount of time students receive with academic staff.

"The solution to this problem is not simply adding more large lectures; departments need not only to ensure that students receive an acceptable number of contact hours but also that they are appropriate to the subject and of most value to the students."

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17 Comments

Rachieroo Posted on Sunday 28 Apr 2013

I study English and I am extremely disappointed by the lack of lectures on my timetable and have many friends who complain about other humanities subjects (in particular). Full-time study? I think not... it could easily be compressed into two years, work fuller days, have longer terms and we'd all save a lot of money and time!

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Languages student Posted on Sunday 28 Apr 2013

Would be interesting to see how teaching hours compare for languages students. We only get 3 hours per week per language (on average) and i'd say that contact hours are pretty essential when learning to speak another language. I'm not downplaying the lack of contact hours in other subjects, but this is ridiculous.

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Reynolds Posted on Sunday 28 Apr 2013

I'm studying a Medieval History MA at the moment and did my initial History degree at York. I don't entirely see what benefit I would have gained from extra seminars or lectures. This study ignores the high standard of teaching, extensive library (and archive) resources, and excellent research at York. The fact that Northampton, which ranked 101st in the university league tables, provides the greatest number of contact hours for History shows how insignificant they are as a statistic. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure this doesn't take into account office hours which students are able to benefit from. I appreciate Nouse pointing this out, but I think we need to bear in mind that quantity of teaching does not equate with quality.

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John Archibold McSwaggerty Posted on Sunday 28 Apr 2013

I am propa glad u deesided to rite this artickle nouse, The Daily Male one woz far tew difficult 4 me to reed.

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Leilani Posted on Sunday 28 Apr 2013

so now it's clear why York is 37th.

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GCSE English Graduate Posted on Sunday 28 Apr 2013

A few things:
"with the *city's second institution"
"The history department has defended *its position"
Finally, before those: "one of *its more intensive courses", one of which you were probably right to avoid.

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Nate Posted on Monday 29 Apr 2013

I assume you mean 'fewer' rather than 'least'.

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Nate Posted on Monday 29 Apr 2013

*fewest. Autocorrect.

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Anonymous Posted on Monday 29 Apr 2013

The stats are nonsense. There's no "new research" here. Nouse should know better than to rely on the Daily Mail.

On the other hand, the litany of basic errors in this article suggests quite persuasively that _something_ is wrong with York's education system. (Though if he continues to exercise such little independent brainpower presumably the author has a fruitful career at the DM ahead of him.)

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The Hobbit Posted on Monday 29 Apr 2013

@Rachieroo

You do know that you're supposed to work on your own in the slots between contact hours, right? Higher education and all that.

This article is riddled with blatant spelling and grammar mistakes, by the way. Good job showcasing York's academic standards when you don't know the difference between "its" and "it's".

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Anon Posted on Monday 29 Apr 2013

There are so many things to take into consideration other than contact hours when you are ranking a university, and to break it down on a financial basis is rather ridiculous.
I do English and always knew that compared to those studying a science, I wasn't going to have the same amount of hours - it isn't the nature of my course. I need time to read and comprehend what I am learning, using my seminars etc to help develop the ideas that I've already formulated.
My tuitions fees subsidise other courses but I don't mind this because I'm happy with the quality of the teaching, resources and opportunities to get in contact with teachers etc.

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Anon Posted on Monday 29 Apr 2013

Aside from the fact that tuition fees don't just pay for direct contact with academic staff, making it a bit stupid to calculate an exact figure for what a contact hour based on the fee for a year's tuition, there's no effort to distinguish between the different types of contact, either in this article or in the original Daily Mail piece.

Typically, high-quality arts and humanities institutions (of which York's history department is one) will offer fewer contact hours because they offer actual face-to-face small group teaching, i.e. a maximum of 18 students in a seminar room. Students can have three times the number of "contact hours" if they want but that would involve scrapping seminars for lectures, where there's 100+ students in a room. Aside from the fact that's not a suitable way to teach a lot of stuff, you'd have a whole range of knock-on effects, like lecturers never getting to know students' names. Which model would you prefer: quantity or quality?

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anon Posted on Monday 29 Apr 2013

I dont know about the other universities, but for york it doesnt seem to include the time physics students stay in labs. second year physicists actually have nearly 200 hours in one term (except summer), likely making the total (i havent actually counted) over 400, rather than 276.

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DWM Posted on Monday 29 Apr 2013

Obviously contact hours taken alone are a poor measure of quality, though an argument could be made about extremes being worrying.

I think what's really pertinent is how students feel about paying the same as others while receiving far less.

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Claire Posted on Monday 29 Apr 2013

If our weeks were full working weeks ie. 9-5 (which i often had last autumn term- chemist) then when would any of us do the set work and revision?

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physics 3rd year Posted on Tuesday 21 May 2013

"Also concerning for York is that it also ranked low for Physics...York was by far the lowest in the UK on 96 hours..."

Lol not true.

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Lily Posted on Monday 27 May 2013

The reason Bath is so high up on the list (I'm a Politics student there) is that most of our subjects are lab-heavy - we have no arts degrees. I think I receive among the lowest number of contact hours which is about 12 hours a week.

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