Students should be prioritised, says Thomas Fremlin
Upon hearing about Heslington East, I naturally assumed it was a train station. Realising that it was, in fact, the plan for York University to expand, I have to confess that I was initially rather enthusiastic. Good, I thought, a young and successful establishment is looking to provide more for its students and, furthermore, to grow as an institution.
However, since then, the picture painted has been less enticing, one of money spinning and corporate domination, with student opinion at best taking a back seat and, at worst, being thrown out of the window.
Business is undeniably vital to the University’s financial viability, and so to an extent, one expects to see it embraced and, where necessary, provided for. On the other hand, when those at the top fail to consult students, and yet provide 38 per cent of the footprint for business, there is a tendency for it to appear investment orientated. Sustainable development is the guise that the University uses to cover the fact that, if we’re being totally honest, business is dictating the new expansion – Heslington East.
Where, then, does the line come in? At what point is it safe to say that the University, which should ostensibly be about students, has become a money-spinning venture. I think now, for two reasons, firstly the aforementioned plans for the Heslington East expansion, and, more controversially, new plans to incarcerate students on the University campus for three years.
Three years on campus, with its miserable grey atmosphere, lack of facilities, and often poor accommodation is, to say the least, repulsive to most students. Surely moving off campus is part of growing up – the idea of fostering independence, spreading wings and entering the real world (not to mention the saved expenditure that not being forced to shop in Costcutter will ensure). For many this is where lessons in household diplomacy, day-to-day chores and domestic finance are learned. Removing the option of living away is certainly not going to be popular amongst the student population, just ask a few students. So, why on earth is the University even considering it? Hardly surprisingly, it comes down to making money. Here, it is clear that students are losing as a result of the university’s plans to accumulate, and so it seems only right that we should take a stand.
Personally I think the University should try something new, and consult the students. Most realise that you cannot have a University without investment. However, the running of a University has to be related to students, and the best way to do that is to talk to them. How should this be achieved? What is certain is that there needs to be a reprioritisation such that students are at the fore of everything that goes on. It will be a feature of the focus on students that business has to be involved, not to make money, but to make learning and opportunities better.