We’ve all had them. The tutor who would rather be anywhere else. The lecture that seems like a silent film without subtitles. Even studying at one of the best universities in the UK, it is more than possible to feel frustrated at the quality of education received. On our very own Stand, there have been calls to improve the “abysmal” teaching standards of certain lecturers. Although many of us may be happy with our tutors, our lecturers, and our courses, dissatisfaction with the quality of the education being offered is certainly not unknown to most students.
These feelings are certainly not limited to St Andrews. Many of us may remember the case of Faiz Siddiqui, a former Oxford student who decided to sue his alma mater for £1 million due to the “appallingly bad” teaching that he claimed had cost him a first class degree and a more successful career.
While Mr Siddiqui’s case is of course unique to his own circumstances, it does raise some important questions for all students in top universities – are we entitled to a quality teaching? Are we entitled to good grades? And, having graduated, are we entitled to a high-flying career?
Although comparing the universities of Oxford and St Andrews may nark some on both sides (Stoxbridge will never be any more of a thing than Doxbridge) it is true that both institutions are competitive. We worked hard to get here, spent weeks, even months revising for exams and tweaking personal statements to meticulous perfection.
It can therefore be no surprise that students have a right to demand high quality teaching from the university. Although it has been debated whether higher education is a right or an investment, the reality is we are paying to be here. Unless of course you’re Scottish or from the EU and someone south of the border probably does it for you (sorry, friends, couldn’t resist!). But even taking tuition fees out of the question, we are all investing our time, our effort and what are supposed to be the best years of our lives in this institution. So are we entitled to a first-rate education? Of course we are.
After that, it gets complicated. While we are entitled to an education that allows us to thrive both academically and professionally, the relationship between good grades within the confines of St Andrews and success in the real world is harder to draw. Naturally, a first class degree is more desirable than a 2:1, but to the tune of a million pounds? Does every mark we receive have an intrinsic financial value? Can we quantify the future losses and profits from every essay we slide into a wooden box,every exam we hand to a stern-faced invigilator? Although higher education may be an investment, don’t all investments come with a degree of uncertainty?
St Andrews students are entitled to a quality education. We are entitled to speak up if the standards we expect aren’t reached. We are not, however, entitled to a smooth, straight-forward and successful life beyond university. No one is. The idea that our grades and the class of our degrees can either guarantee, or form an impenetrable barrier to, our future success is not only misleading but also forces us to second-guess every move we make at university. This outlook is one of the main contributing factors to the stresses that cause so many students to drop out of university altogether.