The Telegraph, 30.07.15, following calls for an end to 'barbaric' initiation ceremonies, HMC General Secretary Dr William Richardson suggests low contact hours and less demanding timetables in humanities and social sciences fuel laddish culture.
Undergraduate degrees at British top universities are too easy and are making students “bored” so they kill time drinking, fuelling laddish culture, the head of a private school association has said.
Dr William Richardson, general secretary of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), said that “low contact hours” and less demanding timetables in humanities and social sciences compared to medicine degrees result in students drinking to entertain themselves.
He also said there was “an unreasonable expectation of entitlement” to a degree from students with little work to do during the first semesters at university.
The general secretary of the HMC, which represents leading independent schools, also encouraged student unions to ‘stamp out’ risky initiation ceremonies.
His comments follow a call for “barbaric and dangerous” student club rites, which range from biting the heads off goldfish to drinking vast amounts of alcohol.
His comments follow reports of a worsening of the hard-drinking, drug-taking culture on campus that has led to the National Students Union (NUS) to denounce British universities for failing to tackle lad culture.
Speaking to The Telegraph, he said there was a culture of“entitlement” around grades that was also fuelling drinking on campus.
Dr Richardson said there was an expectation from first-year students that once they were in a degree course they were either going to get a first-class degree or a 2:1.
He explained: “It’s important that universities don’t give students who get a place on a highly sought-after course an unreasonable expectation of entitlement.
“These days most graduate students get a first class degree or a 2:1 when they leave.
“But it’s not a good idea for this to become the assumption of each first year, especially those with time on their hands, who are away from home for the first time and with no assessed work to do in the first three terms that counts towards their final result.”
"It’s a privilege to be at one of those universities because you know there is a huge advantage in life. You’re going to earn over £100,000 more over a lifetime because you attended that institution."
He knew of a case at a leading university how a student died due to excessive alcohol drinking. He said: “The parents said [their child] didn’t have enough to do. There were just five hours of teaching in a week.”
Dr Richardson said headteachers at HMC schools “have been concerned that some students – first years, in particular – are made vulnerable at university by low contact hours and dangerous activities,especially those linked to alcohol consumption”.
“It cannot be right that, for some, the design of teaching is the problem. It is not acceptable that there are undergraduates, especially in the humanities and some social sciences, who end up in harms' way because they are bored in term-time or don’t have enough to do on their course.
“The NUS is giving a strong lead on this under its President Megan Dunn and we strongly encourage student unions to take a lead, alongside university managements, in oversight of students clubs and in stamping out dangerous initiation ceremonies.”
Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group universities, said: “The welfare of students is an absolute priority for Russell Group universities. Russell Group universities are committed to doing more to help students deal with the transition from school to university by providing extra support at the start of their courses.”
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