‘A degree isn’t worth the paper it’s written on’

May 25, 2009

Increasingly, I’ll agree with the title of this post.  I maintain that GCSEs were the toughest exams I went through, getting easier at A-Level and then just plain ridiculous at third level education

Example 1. In my first year, needing just 40% to pass the module (which counts for nothing towards the final degree) I get a potential 10% for attendance and participation in seminars

Example 2. In my second year, a proposed three hour exam was reformatted into a one hour class test.  With a seen question.  And you were allowed to bring an A4 page of notes in with you.

Example 3. In my final year, during my final exam, I look up wondering what the mumbling noise is.  It’s the invigilator.  With his back turned to a room full of students.  On his phone


University of Ulster drops 16 places in University Guide

May 12, 2009

The Guardian’s University guide lists UU in 75th place, out of the 117 Universities listed.  Queen’s drops three places to 49th.  Queen’s have particularly underperformed.  With an average entry tariff of 353 points there is no university with a higher tariff below them, while several universities with lower entry requirements are above them, such as Heriot Watt (22nd, with an average entry tarriff of 346)

% satisfied with teaching – % satisfied with feedback – Student/Staff Ratio – Career prospect – Avg. Entry Tariff

Queens – 85 – 58 – 16.0 – 76 – 353

UU – 76 – 60 – 17.9 – 63 – 269

Student Fees – Where’s the value?

April 2, 2009

Where does £3,125 of tuition fees per year go, if you study at the University of Ulster?

Extra lecturers, or even pay rises to attract the top ones?
No, staff face pay reductions of up to £5000 per year, as the Vice Chancellor received a 25% pay increase to take him up to £212,000 per year (that’s slightly more than the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and nearly 20 grand more than Gordon Brown gets) (source)

Free printing?
No, students pay 5p per sheet which is the same as, for example, Bennett’s 1 hour photo charge. A service, or profiteering?

No, apparently the money that students pay to the University, is not reinvested back into them. Rather it pays for extortionate and rarely used equipment such as the ‘Bod Pod’.
And surveys which reveal the jaw dropping results released today, that sisters make people happy”

Wow. If that’s not value, I don’t know what is

UniStats.com – Exposing the University of Ulster?

March 5, 2009

As a dissatisfied student at the University of Ulster, I’m out to bash it, so the statistics I’ve selected below are completely to back up my point of view. However, for those of you who want to investigate for yourself, a full range can be found at Unistats.com. I have compared results with Queens and Stirling (it lets you compare any three universities in one sitting)

– 7% of UU graduates, 6 months after graduation, are sales assistants or retail cashiers. 5% are assumed to be unemployed. 3 years well spent, won’t you agree? For History graduates at UU, one in five will work in sales/retail.
– 70% of UU students get employment with a job related to their degree. At Queens this is 81%
– Only 25% of History students go into a graduate job, that is a job related to the degree they studied. For history graduates at Queens, this is 30%, Aberdeen 40%, Birmingham 51%
-14% of UU students leave with no award. Significantly higher than at Queens where this is 4%, Stirling 5%
– As many as 76% find their course at UU intellectually stimulating. Queens 86%, Stirling 84%

Todays News: Mistakes – Making them, and learning from them

February 9, 2009

The theme of today’s local news has been mistakes.

First we see the University of Ulster learning from their mistake of the late 60s to locate a University in Coleraine and not Londonderry with news of £250m worth of investment, equating to room for 2,000 more students. Derry is a thriving city, and one which has a much greater capacity to offer graduate opportunities. Coleraine meanwhile has never made the most of the opportunity on it’s doorstep either in terms of the entertainment facilities on offer, or in persuading businesses to set up in the area offering jobs to Media, Journalism, Business and IT graduates.

In other news, Minister of Environment Sammy Wilson has once more proved himself to be fully incompetent, misguided and – in a nutshell – a numpty. His decision to ban a Government advert on Climate Change on the grounds of it being nonsensical propaganda beggars belief, especially when you consider his portfolio. It would be like Nigel Dodds (finance minister) denying the Credit Crunch. Other leaders have rightly spoke out against him, and I fully condemn his decision. This is only the tip of the iceberg, and one must wonder what exactly an environment minister who doesn’t think the environment needs fixing does with himself all day? Skimpy holidays in France?

In time, the current executive will learn from these mistakes, but I only hope it isn’t too late. It pains me to say it, but we must let America lead the way, and follow suit.

The Dispassionate Student

December 2, 2008

Students have a history of making a stand, and making a difference. In 1941 the White Rose movement was formed by students in Munich, making a defiant stand against the Nazi Regime. The chain of events leading to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 were started by peaceful student demonstrations. In 1967 the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA)was formed, spurred by Catholic Students who were benefiting from the free education that had come into Northern Ireland in 1947 under the new ‘Welfare State’ and who were now disenchanted with discrimination from local authorities. The Tiananmen protests in China, culminating in the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 came off the back of students dissatisfied with the Chinese method of governance. Around the same time in Europe, students were holding pro-democracy protests in Soviet states, which can be argued to be a catalyst for the rapid downfall of communism.

Yet where is the passionate student today? Last year, a protest organised against fees was held at Stormont. Some 30 students bothered to turn up. Not so long again at the University of Ulster, Coleraine (UUC), the Union General meeting attracted only 40 people, though this was twice as many as the considerably larger Jordanstown (UUJ) campus. Talk about issues of Fairtrade and the student is interested in change, but only if someone else will do it for them. Speak about poor parking facilities, and the threat of doing away with Sunday train services for which many students on this campus rely on, and there are complaints, but no action.

It disheartens me to see a vast number of young people here, affected by various issues but so dispassionate and apathetic that they don’t want to see anything changed. Maybe it all comes back to selfishness? Why bother campaigning if by the time we have change I won’t be here any longer? Why lobby on Fairtrade if all it does is ease my conscience a little?
Today seemed different though. The Students’ Union organised a protest against Fees. At the minute in Northern Ireland, tuition fees stand at £3,145 per annum, the maximum which Universities can charge. There is a short term proposed move to increase this by £80, to help ‘deal with inflation’. On top of this, Sir Reg Empey, leader of the Ulster Unionists is calling for a removal of the cap, meaning that Universities could charge as much as they like. This would lead to an increase to £5,000, £10,000, £20,000…who knows. Ultimately it would weed out the last remaining students from low-income families, and ensure that our institution-educated people are those people who come from middle class backgrounds.

The Bible talks about campaigning for the poor, lobbying for justice.
Isaiah says;
“Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

He goes on to say;
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”
(58 v 6)

Ultimately the majority of students are not coming to protest because of any God-given command, but I was shocked to see the numbers who started arriving from 12.30 in the Students Union, ready to make their voice heard

Why? The increase is unlikely to effect us, especially for those of us who are in our last year, it’s more for those teenagers who will be coming to Uni in the years to come. And yet students wanted to speak for those who couldn’t speak. Students wanted to stand up for their brothers and sisters who would be coming to University after them, and didn’t want them to be labelled with an even bigger financial burden.

There were probably around 150 people gathered in the Students Union building. Councillors Billy Leonard (Sinn Fein) and Barney Fitzpatrick (Alliance) spoke well and passionately. Their calls for students to continue to be active, and to hold politicians accountable (all 5 major parties in Northern Ireland committed to a removal of students fees in 2004) were greeted with loud cheers.

Followed thereafter a march from the Students Union building to the Central building. Shouts and chants were heard. Upon entering the front entrance of the University, these grew louder. Classes were disrupted. Students and staff stopped to watch. Security men stood on the steps of the stairs.
“What do we want?”
– “No Fees”
“When do we want them?”
– “Now!”

We all sat down on the floor, the local photographer clicking like crazy, the media students grabbing their soundbytes for their voxpops as the chants continued, growing louder. The Site VP tried to make a speech but could barely be heard above the racket.

I was in awe. Here were students, doing what students do best. Having their voice heard. Making a stand, against perceived injustice.

The Assembly should be listening. The University should be scared. And I think they were. The poor security chaps didn’t seem to know what to do. As I made my way up the stairs for the class I was late for, I was grabbed on the arm and told I could not do so, that I wasn’t allowed up there with a sign (which was a mock of a Father Ted protest). When I went round and used the lift, there the little bald man on an ego trip was again, having cleverly scented my devious plan. In the end, my class was cancelled, presumably due to the Lecturer being unable to have herself heard as the deafening roars continued.

If we students ever realise the potential to change the society we live in, the world will be an exciting (for some) and scary (for others) place.

I am a happy man. The Revolutionary Student isn’t dead. He’s just having a break