More universities cutting fieldwork costs to students, research suggests
Release Date 03 January 2013
A new report by academics at the University of Reading has suggested that students at UK universities will be expected to contribute less towards fieldwork costs in the future.
The survey, led by researchers at the Universities of Reading, Chester and Sheffield for the Higher Education Academy, also found that many British universities were thinking seriously about ways to fund all compulsory fieldwork within the fees set.
But researchers urged universities in the increasingly competitive HE market to avoid offering increasingly exclusive and exotic fieldwork trips simply as a marketing tool, but should rather seek to work together to enhance the student experience and benefit from collaboration.
Researchers from the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning group asked biosciences and geography, earth and environmental sciences (GEES) practitioners at 43 UK universities about their plans for fieldwork from 2012/13 - the first year of the new system of higher fees for students.
They found that more than three-quarters (78%) of GEES academics and one-quarter (25%) of bioscience academics said that they would cut the costs to students. In both subjects there has been a shift towards making all compulsory fieldwork free to students, the researchers reported.
Dr Alice Mauchline, from the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading, said: "Fieldwork offers students a stimulating, novel learning environment and it is central to teaching in several science subjects.
"However, the recent change in HE funding has prompted departments to re-evaluate their budget allocations and they are revising the way in which student learning is supported and financed."
While researchers found that fieldwork provision would stay at the same level under the new fees regime, they suggested several ways to make trips more cost-effective and useful to students. This included greater use of technology, flexible travel arrangements and sponsorship. They also suggested field trips should make use of academics' research strengths, help students gain transferable skills to aid them in the graduate job market, and be run as sustainably as possible.
Dr Mauchline also cautioned against replacing longer or foreign trips with shorter activities.
"Such activities should supplement, not replace, longer field trips as there are significant social benefits to taking students away on residential trips that could be lost if there is too much of a shift towards low-cost and less-diverse day-trips," she said.
The group added that well-organised and exciting fieldwork had been shown to encourage students to go into science careers or continue studying at a postgraduate level.
For more information, contact Pete Castle at the University of Reading press office on 0118 378 7391 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors:
The future of fieldwork in higher education report was written by Alice Mauchline, Katharine Welsh, Julie Peacock, Derek France, Julian Park and Brian Whalley from the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning project.
Enhancing Fieldwork Learning is a three-year Higher Education Academy funded project which aims to promote ways to enhance student learning during fieldwork.