May 14, 2006

University Spending of Top Up Fees?

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I have been reading on insite today about the spending of university top–up fees. For 2006/07 Warwick will receive 4.9million pounds. Of this, 1.5 million pounds will be spent on student financial support. This is good. 1.4 million pounds will be ploughed into merit pay and such things for staff. This is good too. The question is what about the other 2 million pounds?

Insite descibes a number of 'initiatives designed to improve the student learning experience'. Insite describes also how 'in preparation for the advent of top–up fees the University has already invested a considerable sum in the creation of the two Learning Grids, the co–location of the Student Support and Development Centre, improved sporting facilities (including a £1m contribution to a planned new indoor tennis centre at Westwood) and new academic staff posts'. The tennis court particularly suprised me – is this the kind of initiative that top–up fees are going to spent on? Who actually cares if there are new tennis courts at Warwick or not?

Insite lists 'developments that have already been approved':'further investment in IT infrastructure including e–learning development, improved student support and new software to improve services' and 'investment in the Library'. This seems fair enough, but shouldn't the university be funding these projects anyway out its own pocket rather than dipping into top–up fees. Other projects under consideration are fair: 'Additional support for the Students’ Union – including the refurbishment of Union South', 'Increased support for e–learning development', 'investment in improved student administration', 'extended support hours for IT Services'.
But who needs '24–hour Library opening hours'? Students need to learn to organise their time well and to have 24 hour library opening hours is frankly sending a bad message. 'Pulling an all nighter' should not be encouraged by the university.

- 24 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. What do you think top–up fees are supposed to be spent on?

    Top–up fees were created so as to fund universities. There's never been any expectation that they'd be spent on anAlsything inparticular, although Warwick made the decision to spend 1/3 on student bursaries and 1/3 on staff wage increases.

    The things you mention sound like exactly like the 'other' things that you'd expect a University to fund. It's not a case of 'dipping into' top–up fees. They're not earmarked in any way at all.

    Also, a lot of people have asked for 24hr library opening hours. I don't see why the University should particularly be discouraging it. I for one work a lot better in the evening than during traditional working hours. Not because of organisation, but just cos that's the way my brain works.

    And finally you only have to wander behind New Rootes to see how popular more tennis courts would be.

    14 May 2006, 15:32

  2. E–Learning hahaha. Talk about a (compound) watch word.

    14 May 2006, 16:20

  3. Madeleine Wood

    In response to the first commenter on this entry, when the question of top up fees was first raised in parliament, it was with the understanding that the money raised would be ear marked specifically for staff pay increases: it was on this basis that labour MP's supported their introduction. Warwick is an extremely rich university, and I find the prospect of them using the money to build new tennis courts not just ridiculous, but quite offensive.

    14 May 2006, 16:47

  4. Madeleine – it was with the understanding that one third of the money raised would go on staff pay increases.

    They didn't necessarily offer that much originally, although their current offer translates to 48% of top–up fees income by 2009/10.

    And I don't see why it should be offensive that the University is spending money on tennis courts. The top–up fees aren't this specially divided pot of money to be used exclusively for x, y and z. They're just part of the University's income, so you can just as easily say that the tennis courts are being paid for by income from conferences. Granted, the University have mentioned it on their webpage about top–up fees, but that page is designed to appeal to students, so they're going to include any expenditure which will be popular with students.

    14 May 2006, 17:11

  5. Madeleine Wood

    I do see your point. I suppose I am coming from the deeply held opinion that top up fees are politically, and morally, reprehensible (indeed I feel like this about tuition fees in general… too big a debate really!).

    14 May 2006, 17:51

  6. Christopher, that is exactly my question. 'What do I think top up fees are supposed to be spent on?' And my answer is not tennis courts. Staff have heavier workloads than ever and are struggling on unfair pay. Students are under more financial pressure than ever. And the problem is that the funds aren't earmarked in any way.

    You argue that tennis courts and 24 hr opening hours for the library are fine. You like tennis, so tennis courts seem reasonable to you. You think that you work better in the evening so 24 hr opening hours is good for you. (Nevermind that the library already stays open until 12 midnight – or 2am at the moment – and that to work any later than this is bad for your health, will not produce good work and does not prepare you for later when you start work in a regular job.) You have your reasons for thinking that this kind of spending is useful. But I wonder if the money would be better spent directly on the people that work and live at Warwick rather than on the superficialities of institution itself. Whatever you say, it is extra money which could be used for benefit.

    (B.t.w there are tennis clubs in Kenilworth and Leamington, if anyone does want to play tennis and has the courage to emerge from the Warwick bubble).

    15 May 2006, 10:09

  7. Hero

    I must admit, that when you look at the levels of pay at warwick for staff, they seem to be pretty badly off compared to smaller places, like aston for example.

    15 May 2006, 10:24

  8. Any sporting facilities should be self–financing.

    As for 24 hour library opening – I might be old–fashioned but in my day you could borrow books from the library and read them elsewhere. e–resouces are open 24 hours a day (in principle) for journals.

    15 May 2006, 11:06

  9. Exactly George. I'm with you completely on the library opening hours.

    15 May 2006, 11:12

  10. I'm with you completely on the library opening hours.

    But many others don't. It's not a case of whether or not the Uni should be nannying us because that's what's best for our health. The Uni should facilitate learning and i'd imagine they've found a significant amount of people would benifit from 24 hour access.

    15 May 2006, 11:41

  11. The university should promote a good work ethos. By this I mean not encouraging people to work past 12 midnight. You don't see it as a health problem, but I think it is.

    15 May 2006, 11:52

  12. Hmmm, perhaps this should tell you something Colin: link

    15 May 2006, 11:54

  13. Lol, I knew my blog would come back to haunt me some day!
    But i'm not saying it's not bad for your health to work all night. However people do it regardless of whether or not the library is open 24 hours or not and those people may find it usefull for the library to be open. You are obviously viewing it that by opening the library 24hours a day lots more people will work through the night where as i'm viewing it that those who already do that will have the facilities to work better.

    I'm finding it somewhat confusing that you seem to want the university to promote a good work ethos that reduces health problems but them spending money on sports facilities is bad! huh?

    15 May 2006, 12:47

  14. That was a bit cheeky of me! But I think that we are just looking at it from different perspectives. You must understand that I am looking at the opening hours from the point of a tutor who wants her students to do well and not to paint themselves into a corner by doing an 'all–nighter' which will make their work suffer. I want all of my students to reach their fullest potential.

    By the way I'm not against all sports facilties! Students pay such expensive fees to use the Warwick sports facilties. Surely there must be some money floating around that could pay for extra facilities like tennis courts. And as I said above there are loads of tennis clubs in Warwickshire, so I don't think that the lack of tennis courts would deprive students too much or cause huge health problems.

    15 May 2006, 12:57

  15. I'm going to stick my oar in here; Warwick isn't necessarily "an extremely rich" university. Obviously it's not a poor university by any stretch but it's not inside the top 10 in the UK for research income iand a lot of it's income comes in on a "hand–to–mouth" annual basis from conferences. There's a misconception that Warwick has a big pot of money that it's hoarding away from students. This simply isn't true.

    15 May 2006, 16:11

  16. I understand that you are speaking out of concern for your pupils but to be honest, I could hardly care less whether or not having an irregular sleep cycle is bad for my health – if I have some work that needs doing and I do not have time to do it earlier then I'm quite happy to go without sleep. It certainly is not the place of the university to tell me when I can or can't work, particularly when the institution is supposed to foster a certain amount of academic freedom and personal choice. Incidentally I have found in the past that I can be equally if not more effective when I work through the night – it's quieter and there are less distractions. To each their own.

    I think that keeping the library open all hours would be a cracking way to spend the money, (and looking it how busy the learning grid is right now I think a lot of people will agree with me) particularly considering I doubt it would be that expensive.

    Anyhow, I'd best get back to my unhealthy and ineffective work drive before I'm borne down by physical and mental health problems!!!

    16 May 2006, 00:21

  17. student@warwick

    Irrespective of whether the University was going to be given top–up fees or not, it has a duty to ensure that the income it generates from all its activities cover the costs of running the University. So for example, over the last decade it has had to deal with wage inflation, and has always had enough money to cover increased costs.

    Similarly, in the future, it should be sufficiently well funded to cover the wages of its staff, including nationally negotiated pay rises. What the Uni seems to have done with these rather dubious figures that it has published is to forget all this. To suggest that top–up fees are the only way to pay the additional wage burden of staff is rubbish – over its 40 year history it has always had enough money to cover these costs, without top–up fees..

    If I was a lecturer, what I would have expected was that the top–up fees would pay for a large pay hike over and above the 'usual' increase expected year on year. What the University seem to have done is to 'forget' that they have a wage bill that rises annually and at least on paper 'taken away' this money and pointed to the extra income from top–up fees as the only extra money they have.

    16 May 2006, 17:16

  18. Sorry but I think working all night does make your work suffer. I can't speak for everyone of course, but that's my experience of writing and marking work.

    Good points from anonymous student@warwick.

    16 May 2006, 19:52

  19. Extended opening hours wouldn't just benefit night owls though – 8:30 is actually quite a late opening time for early birds. And the 1pm opening on Sunday is, frankly, diabolical.

    17 May 2006, 02:21

  20. OK Benjamin, I agree with you on what you say about the 8:30am opening time and the Sunday 1pm opening. Good point.

    17 May 2006, 09:54

  21. why doesn't waking up ridiculously early "hurt your work"?
    Refer to Gareth Herbert on comment 16. It's totally right, so there's no need for me to add to it.

    18 May 2006, 12:55

  22. another student

    Just to add to this debate about opening hours in the library …

    Surely by having the hours extended it actually prevents overcrowding and ensures that pretty much most students one time of the day or another get access to a quiet working environment? Whether this schedule is unrealistic for the workplace or unhealthy in terms of your own wellbeing, we all know the library isnt big enough to house close to all the students who have access to it at any one time. Maybe we should let the night owls come in when they choose?

    I would personally like to see that slot of money go to more investment in the range of online materials available for my course, but hey, we are back to personal preference.

    19 May 2006, 14:43

  23. anonymous@reading

    Firstly, apologies for anyone who believes I am intruding – I am a recent Politics graduate of Reading University and have nothing whatsoever to do with Warwick. I stumbled across this website when looking for some information about top–up fees and have been quite frankly driven into a screaming political rant at my computer from some of the comments I have read.

    Christopher Doidge – In refernce to your comments about the tennis courts, I believe you are missing one vital point – tennis is AN EXTRA CURRICULAR activity (unless of course you study some sort of sport science or other related degree). Top–up fees are supposed to be spent on furthering EDUCATION, be it staff wages, research, academic departments or whatever. If a student wants to look after their health then in my opinion they should jolly well pay for it. I do. END OF STORY. What a waste of time debating such a trivial matter!

    Madeleine Wood – Im with you all the way.

    Zoe Brigley – You make some very intelligent and considered comments. I should like to sit you down and pick your braions if ever I had the opportunity! Working through the night is absurb – why should money be spent on keeping a library open for 24hrs just for 5 or 6 people to sit in it at 5am in the morning. How much do you think it would cost to pay just the staff there to keep it open, let alone the other bills like electricity etc.

    George Riches – I totally agree. I am appalled to find that most of my contemporaries believe that they are SUPPOSED TO BE SPOON FED by unviersities and their lecturers. I always thought that THE POINT OF UNIVERSITY WAS TO GET OFF YOUR OWN ARSE AND DO IT. Sorry to phrase it that way but frankly it makes me mad. very mad. I have worked extremely hard with my head buried in books for three years and I think it it extremely worrying to think that people nowadays want someone else to do EVERYTHING for them. A degree is undertaken by YOU. If you want to study at ungodly hours take your books home, work at 5am whilst you are shattered and your brain cannot function to its full capacity then get your results and suffer the consequences. IT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY NOT THE UNIVERSITY'S.


    i have a lot more to rant about but unfortunately i have joined the real world and have to go to work.

    might pop back tho – this was extrememly thought provoking.

    sorry for any offence caused – but i felt some things needed to be highlighted.

    20 Jun 2006, 07:42

  24. Thanks anonymous@reading for your comment. Its nice to know that I'm not alone!

    22 Jun 2006, 13:49

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