Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | May 13, 2011

Students ‘frustrated’ over lack of lectures, says Willetts

The Telegraph reports that David Willetts, speaking at a Higher Education Policy Institute conference, said that

The 2009 figures show that undergraduates at British universities have an average of 30 lecture or tutorial hours every week, compared with 42 hours in France and 36 hours in Germany.

This is an obvious misunderstanding on part of Mr Willetts’ researchers: these figure realistically represent total study hours (including private study) per week, not contact hours. As my colleague Jonathan Bagley   put it in his comment on the newspaper blog,

There is some confusion here. The number of contact hours (lectures, tutorials and labs) varies from around 6 (what started the controversy a few months ago) for some Arts and Humanities degrees, up to about 25 for Chemistry and other subjects involving labs. Mathematics degrees typically involve around 18 contact hours a week. Universities, both here and in other countries, can specify suggested hours of private study, but this is largely meaningless and will vary greatly from student to student.

My French colleague wrote to me about France:

It should take about 3 students to study that much a week: very much like in the UK!

However it appears that French studnents indeed could have 30 contact hours a week:

Pour les UE de maths en licence c’est en général 2h CM + 3h TD par UE comme tu le sais (et dans certains un heure de colle toutes les 3 semaines)

Pour les autres UE de sciences, je pense que c’est variable suivant la proportion de TP. Par exemple en LIF3 c’est 6h15 ce semestre par semaine.

Donc environ 30 doit ne pas être loin de la réalité mais cela doit être variable suivant les options et parcours. Par ailleurs, les emplois du temps peuvent être pas terribles et pas nécessairement commun dans un groupe de TD.

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