Private school head teachers from around the country have called for universities to start lectures sooner and have branded Freshers’ Week potentially “isolating and expensive”.
William Richardson, general secretary of the annual Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, stated that informal conversations with undergraduate students had suggested that many would prefer to avoid Freshers’ Week and start courses straight away. With rising tuition fees and living costs, students are increasingly concerned about getting “value for money” from university.
Peter Hamilton, the chair of the HMC academic policy committee, added that it is unsurprising that students want to “get on with this”, when they have been used to high-pressured school environments. The hands-off approach at universities, where the number of contact hours reduce dramatically, has prompted leading heads to demand more “actual university stuff to happen” at the start of university, to ease student anxiety.
Freshers’ Week has been a key part of starting university for decades as a way for students to join clubs and societies and make new friends, but it has gained a bad reputation in recent years with reports of binge drinking, anti-social behaviour and initiation ceremonies.
Head teachers have argued that the emphasis on parties and pub crawls presents an expensive and problematic situation for teetotal teenagers who feel that they can’t enjoy events without being presented with the pressure to drink.
Research published by the National Union of Students earlier this year, however, hinted at a change in student life, with 87% of respondents saying that coffee shops were the most used facility, ahead of clubs and societies (78%) and bars (74%).
Richard Brooks, the NUS vice-president for union development, said: “Students are asking more and more for different opportunities to meet other students in a variety of spaces.
“Students’ unions are rising to the challenge and providing a range of events that reflect this and finding ways to welcome new and returning students.”