The Guardian today reports that the National Union of Students in the UK are demanding courses with more contact hours and greater rigour in teaching.

With students in that country now paying fees there is a clear concern about value for money. Should students in Australia be similarly concerned? There is no doubt that the last decade has seen a substantial decline in contact hours as universities seek to make the funding dollar go further. UWS is, of course, not immune from this trend and face-to-face hours have gradually been eroded. University management is very fond of trumpeting our social justice mission and the numbers of first-in-family students we enrol. But there are serious doubts about whether we are actually meeting our pedagogical obligations to them.

In a recent column in The Australian our Deputy Vice Chancellor Rhonda Hawkins wrote:

At the heart of the debate about widening participation is the reality that, while not all students will have had equal preparation, family support or financial security, each one deserves and should expect that universities provide the best chance for them to succeed.

But this is hollow rhetoric. What most staff at the university know is that despite these lofty sentiments the university is starving the Schools of funding such that they (we!) are simply unable to give students the sort of attention they require.