University students need structure
To Be Honest: A parent writes:This time last year my daughter was heading in to the last few months of study for the Leaving Cert. She was a diligent and committed student, and very focused on what she wanted. She was looking for the points to study law, and my husband and I were delighted to see how motivated she was – not stressed or obsessed, just focused. Some people complain about the Leaving Cert and the pressure that teenagers come under, but in our case it brought out the best in her.
Now, 12 months on, she is heading into her second term at university. It started well: she applied the same determination and commitment as she had the previous year. However, over the course of the winter term I watched her methodical approach to study gradually unravel in the face of a very scant timetable and minimal structure.
Six months into college, she is about to start a part-time job, because she says she has plenty of time on her hands and wants to save up enough money to move into an apartment with some friends.
She seems to have very few contact hours a week. I can’t get a straight answer out of her, but it’s somewhere between 15 and 20, and there are days when she has only an hour or two a day.
Apparently the idea behind this is that the students fill in the intervening hours with library work and case study. However, the reality is that students see this as free time, and, in the case of my daughter and her friends, social activities are rushing in to fill the spaces and becoming more important than the lectures, never mind the library.
I don’t believe that college students should continue to be treated like school students, but I do think that the universities have a responsibility to provide enough structure and obligation to ensure that the study programme remains at the centre of the students’ focus.
At the risk of engaging in public-servant bashing, I’d like to point out that these lecturers are paid very well and should really be spending more time with their students than the level of contact that I am witnessing.
My sister-in-law, who works in a university, tells me that lecturing is just part of an academic’s job and that research is just as important. That’s fine, but they get ample holidays in which to do that.
The college terms are pitifully short. Surely for those few short weeks they could find ways to keep the students on campus.
I can see my daughter drifting away from the study habit, and I think it’s a terrible shame. After all the work she put in to get on to this course I expected it to be at least as rigorous as what went before.