Demanding more contact

Art students: lazy or subject to a raw deal at the hands of the Uni?

From day one of Freshers’ Week, I was the laughing stock of engineers and computer scientists for the comparative lack of contact hours on my course. For some, more lecture hours somehow equates to working harder, yet every student at York is expected to put the same number of hours – lecture, seminar and personal study – into their course.

Nevertheless, there are valid reasons for the variation in lecture hours. It is given that an English Literature student needs more essay and reading time than a Physician. However, I know many arts students would gladly swap a third of the turgid photocopy packs doled out at the beginning of term for another three hours of contact time involving the same content.

York is no exception to this rule. Students at Durham, Nottingham and Warwick have all complained of wild variations in course hours. At Bristol last year, History students campaigned for more contact hours. Their claim was that arts subjects were being financially constrained in order to fund the sciences. I can’t help but sympathise with their protest. Reading is all very well, but I wonder why my subject isn’t receiving funding for more lectures and seminar discussion time. We should be paying for an education from leading academics, not for a library membership.

As my tutor pointed out in a seminar, “You get out what you put in.” The focus for arts degrees seems to be emphasis on personal study. I did not arrive at University hoping to doss around, and I speak on behalf of every BA student when I say that our lack of contact hours is not our fault, or choice. Although five hours of contact with academics may be fairly ridiculous, we are justly given a lot to do in-between. As long as we don’t feel as if we are wasting our time here, then there should be no overt reason to rock the boat. Or at least not too hard.


  1. Just bitterness from the CopSci’s for having to get up for 19.15’s almost every day and not having the luxury of choosing when to work. How many hours a term do other subjects have, or all they all 400 hours? (100 per module, and 4 modules this term)

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  2. As a second year english student at York I can wholly agree with your point that arts subjects are constrained to fund sciences – the amount of contact time is ridiculousy low. However, to assert that we are “justly given alot to do” seems strange – who exactly do you have teaching you because, apart from weeks with a long novel or during essay weeks, I can’t remember having “alot to do”.

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