What does the new Government mean for students?

Posted May 13, 2010 by nicholaspeterrobinson
Categories: Uncategorized

Reality University and Check has done another guest post on www.studentspayless.com To go directly to the post, click here.

Getting hired. Stephen Waddington makes sense of the Media

Posted May 8, 2010 by nicholaspeterrobinson
Categories: Uncategorized

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Waddington presenting to the lecture theatre

Stephen Waddington (@Wadds) presented his views on the media, its future and how to get hired in PR, to students at the university of Sunderland. 

 Waddington, not the actor, is the managing director of London-based PR company, Speed Communications and is also non-exec chairman of Newcastle based, Admiral PR

 What did the fellow have to say to ambitious journalism and PR students?  

 Waddington believes that the print media is in a terrible state, it needs to adapt more than it is now. He approved of the way the Financial times are operating their online pay system, but he wasn’t so optimistic about the pay wall that the Times are about to set up, he said: “The pay wall on the Times website makes no sense at all. You can’t expect people to pay for online content. I think it will fail.”  

“Print is knackered, it is shagged. The industry is in so much trouble. Media is fragmented.”  

  If the print media is ‘shagged’ then which way is the industry heading? Waddington is adamant that Google is the way forward, twice he said: “The future has got to be Google.” 

 “Twitter is now the media” 

  It is always a thrill for students to get tips and advice from someone in the industry that they would like to work in, and to get them from someone who is so high-up is like finding diamonds in your cereal. The advice indicated that social media of all kinds is where you get yourself noticed: “Build personal networks. Twitter is now the media, it is where every single journalist and employer is operating.” 

 “You used to have to go to really shitty events and drink shitty wine!” 

 Twitter has changed the way most industries operate, Waddington made this clear when he spoke about how you met employers in the past. He painted a very dull picture of the past and how you got noticed and particularly, how long it used to take, “now you can connect with everyone you could ever want to.” 

  Waddington made it clear that social media could be the be all and end all of our futures in the industry, he said: “We live in a world where you can set up a blog and become someone. Put yourself out there, create your own media.” 

 The important question. 

 As always, serious students want to know what the industry they are trying to enter wants from them. Waddington said: “It is looking for the same enthusiasm, but the fundamentals stay the same.” The ‘fundamentals’ being – hard work, extra activities to set you aside from others and passion. 

 The overall advice for students was to make yourself stand out. Waddington made it perfectly clear that all of the students in the auditorium were all learning skills that make them different to most of the people in the industry now, he said: “The media is a bloody mess. The good news though, is that you’re skilled up to deal with it. The media is starting to get its head around social media.” 

 A word of warning. 

 Think about what you have of yourself online – that’s Facebook, Twitter, MySpace… Ask yourself, “what does this say about me?” and if you need to change something that could damage your reputation, do it. Waddington checks online before he interviews someone, he said: “That’s the first thing I do, check online.” 

  Some other things he said

 He talked about how we don’t commercialise blogging in this country, like they do in the USA.  

 He talked about how blogging could change the way we consume our regional news, he used the hyper local SR2 blog as an example. 

No money back guarantee

Posted May 5, 2010 by nicholaspeterrobinson
Categories: Uncategorized

There is still lots of talk about university tuition fees; the Liberal Democrats, the Tories and the Labour party are all chatting about it.

Students pay a fee to go to university and it’s been like that for a long time now. When the money has been paid, we don’t think about the service we receive in exchange.

For £3,225 a year, you aren’t getting much teaching time or at least not as much as you should get. If you add up all of the time off university students get, it is phenomenal. Three weeks at Christmas and three at Easter and probably two ‘reading’ weeks somewhere between both of those and maybe one extra too. Then there is the four-month summer break.

Considering the amount of teaching hours the average students gets, it makes no sense that it takes so long to get a degree.

And the time that got taken away?

What about the lectures and the seminars that get cancelled, whey don’t students get some form of a refund for every lecture or seminar that is cancelled? The service isn’t being delivered, which means some cash should be given back or should be taken off their debt.

The argument shouldn’t just be about what to charge students, it should also be about what sort of service they are getting and if it is a fair deal.

What about paying £3,225 to have a lecture in the form of a podcast, is it better than having a face-to-face lecture or is it a solution to cancelled lectures?

Pre recorded lectures would be an excellent resource to students who couldn’t attend a lecture, but most universities already publish lecture notes on their intranet.

On another note:

The hope for free university education may never come to fruit – it was announced that students in Scotland may, eventually, have to pay for higher education http://bit.ly/cXjPru

It’s about accomodation, but it isn’t on this blog…

Posted April 29, 2010 by nicholaspeterrobinson
Categories: Uncategorized


This week I went on a business trip to a website aimed at saving students money and I left a little post there for you to find. Here is the link.

The Shaw Shank Education. Will We Survive On The Outside?

Posted April 20, 2010 by nicholaspeterrobinson
Categories: Uncategorized

The endless talk about raising tuition fees has students asking: “What is my degree worth and is it going to be worth that when I graduate?”

 Tuition fees rise every year. Last year it was £3,225 and rising to £3,290 this year. Is it fair that a first year pays the same as a second and third year? Does the price have to go up for all years?

 If a student starts their three-year degree at £3,225 and then it goes up the next year of their degree to £3,290, is it fair that they have to pay an increased amount each year?

 The cost of education is increasing, but the amount of people who are getting a job after their degree is decreasing. Degrees are no longer a way of making yourself, on paper, look much different from another person. This is why graduates are finding it harder to get a job at the end of their degree.

 Tanya de Grunwaid, from the Guardian, suggests that students need to make more of an effort when it comes to learning. They need to see that, although they are paying a lot for a qualification, they shouldn’t think that the world owes them a living, they should make to most of the opportunity and not waste it.

 It is impossible that all graduates get a job with their degree. Almost half a million students will graduate in one way or another this year. How is it possible that they all get a job out of their degree?

 The potential rise of tuition fees may give the degree its status back. If they cost more, people will take a degree more seriously than they do now.

 Students and the NUS, naturally, don’t want to see a rise in tuition fees. Politicians have recently been accused of overlooking the issue, (The Times) but are they just being realistic? Raising tuition fees may be the lesser of two evils, so to say.

 If the fees are doubled this could mean the amount of students who go on to university is cut by half. This may create more money at A level; which could be used to encourage students to do well and try harder because there would be less places at university.

It is scary to look at the numbers and see just how few graduate jobs there are compared to graduates.

 It is actually a dog eat dog world out there, especially if you have a degree.

 My advice would be:

  •  Try your hardest from day one of your degree.
  • Do as many extracurricular activities as possible.
  • Build contacts and connections from day one.
  • Don’t go to university unless you know what you want to do at the end of your degree.
  • Broaden your knowledge when you’re away from university.


  • Do not drink/party away your three years. It will be expensive and a huge regret. 

There’s No Place Like A Place At University.

Posted March 31, 2010 by nicholaspeterrobinson
Categories: Uncategorized


 Government is about to invest £270m into higher education. This means that there will be twenty-thousand new places for students in the autumn this year.

 Only 14,000 of these places will go to first-year university undergraduate students and they will be given to students studying ‘stem’ subjects such as  maths, science, etc…

 Investing in more spaces is a good thing, however, what about the cuts already confirmed for higher education’s budget? Universities are still going to have to save money somewhere, and it looks like it’s going to be through cutting staff.

 This year, so-far, more than 570,00 students have applied for a place at university in September, which is an increase of 100,000 on last year. It is expected that over 200,000 students will not get a place this Autumn.

 The Government creates 20,000 places, but 200,000 students will still be turned away. It is understandable that not everyone who applies for university will get a place, however, what about the people who were turned away last year? They’re going to apply again this year, which will create less spaces and more declines.

 More students, fewer teachers and fewer lecturers – this is going to cause more problems. Students won’t pay £3,290 (that’s how much it is going to cost next year) for a service that is inadequate.

 The cap on fees for degrees should be abolished. It should be replaced with a pricing guide and should vary between universities.

 The price for a degree in Events Management should be different to that of a degree in Dentistry. The outcome and job prospects for each of these is hugely different, yet students pay the same.

 Imagine shopping around different universities for a good deal on a degree. But then it may come down to affordability rather than if it is the best degree for you.

Living in Halls, Halls, Halls. A Life of Luxury?

Posted March 24, 2010 by nicholaspeterrobinson
Categories: Uncategorized


 Students live a “life of luxury” as traditional halls of residence are in decline.

 A life of luxury? Luxury to a student is not an en-suite bathroom or a television in the living area, but a work-top that doesn’t have dirty dishes all over it; a sink that isn’t full of stinking dishes or a dustbin that doesn’t look like it’s alive and going to walk away. 

 Traditional halls are in decline, not because students are getting more choosy, but because we don’t live in an era where it is acceptable for six to eight strangers to share two toilettes and two showers. It is bad enough sharing a kitchen with seven people.

 Since 2007 the cost of a weeks rent has risen by 20 percent and halls now have more ‘home comforts’ than they did in the past. Surely people don’t expect modern-day students to live in the past though?

 Most students who live away from home in their second and third year of university don’t want to live in halls again; they prefer to find a house and share with people they are comfortable with. This may have a lot to do with universities recommending students live away from halls in their second and third years as there may not be a room for them because first year students get first choice.

 Even houses that students rent privately are changing, albeit slowly. A wealthy single person may find private student accommodation just as appealing as the options available to them.

 Private student accommodation has changed in a short space of time. University graduates buy student accommodation and fill it full of the things they never had – they do this because they want current students to have a more comfortable time at university than they did, unlike the stereotypical student landlord who will, “make do and mend.”

 Students in halls of residence don’t think that it’s a life of luxury though. How many landlords will say, when told the modem has fallen off the wall: “Have you got any Bluetack?”

 It’s no wonder ‘traditional’ halls of residence and private stereotypical student accommodation are both in decline; it’s because people expect a bit more than a kitchen fitted with cupboards from the late 1980s, six chairs – in the living room – that you would expect to find in the waiting room of a hospital and an oven that can only par-bake or charr.

 The appeal of living with up to seven strangers is quickly lost after the first few months. Especially when you realise it wasn’t you who ate the last of your butter or you definitely didn’t open your own magazine subscription and tear out one of the articles.

 The excitement ebbs even more when you are woken at 2 in the morning by a very ‘high’ and very loud member of your flat pounding on your bedroom door to give you a hug before his path of destruction and shame. Or what about the noisy neighbours?

 Why is none of this mentioned in any of the prospectuses? “You may be living with a drug abuser and the people above you may throw a party three nights a week and stamp on a metal grille above your window.”

 It is because of things like this that ‘traditional’ halls of residence are in decline, not because students have too much money. Just because students expect a little bit more than society expects from them.

Degree with a point?

Posted March 19, 2010 by nicholaspeterrobinson
Categories: Uncategorized


Mass consumption of university degrees has caused the creation of the infamous ‘Mickey Mouse’ degree. American Studies and Music Therapy are both relevant degrees, right?

Well, even if they are not, the students who enrol onto them must know what they want to do when they graduate, yes?

Having a degree means you have expanded your mind, it means you have spent three years of your life studying to become a person with a mind full of thoughts and ideas that weren’t there before – you’re supposed to be a pillar of the ‘knowledge economy’.

I’m an optimistic-realist, so I would like to think that every degree, no matter how strange it sounds, will have some sort of relevance and, hopefully, it will point someones life in the right direction when they graduate.

  • Starting with the completely insane, how about a degree in parapschology? If you did want to study ghosts and ghoolies and perhaps have ambitions to star in Most Haunted, then this is the degree for you. Although, surprisingly, it’s not an accredited degree, so you’re killing two birds with one stone really. Wasting three years of your life and you have nothing to show.
  • Sticking with the paranormal theme. You know that guy who always talks about UFOs, aliens and being sucked up into space? If you don’t then it’s probably because he’s at university studying how to become a little bit more socially awkward. Well, there isn’t actually a degree in ufology, however, some one has a doctorate in it.
  • If you really like something, you’re encouraged to study it. Though I think this LA institution may have taken it a little a little further than intended. Brng in the study of Phallus. Imagine telling your Grandma what you study at university: “Err, well Gran, I study…”
  • Your local beach most likely has a little hut with a handsome and tanned guy who will rent you a surfboard for the day and teach you how to stand on it too. Did you know This guy has a degree associated with his job. A degree in Surf Science. Well, it is an amazing sport and it takes a lot of skill and dedication, but do you really need a degree in it?
  • Sports and degrees have a lot in common now. You can now get a degree in Golf Management. This is relevant to one thing and one thing only. Golf. At least you will be seen as dedicated to the sport. If you don’t like golf, why not try something football related – Football Culture? At least Golf Management teaches you how to do a job.
  • This next one is a little less extreme, but still viewed as unnecessary. Art History isn’t as extreme an example as Ufology and it does expand your mind, culturally and educationally, but people don’t think you can do much with it when you graduate.
  • From Art History on to American Studies. Arguably a very interesting course, but how does it relate to life, we have a very good relationship with the Americans, we’re all humans so why do you need to study a culture which we are embracing anyway?
  • Another subject that makes people grumble is Latin. Again, it is a very interesting subject, but we don’t need to transcribe any more Latin. No body speaks it anymore and it is, after all, called the ‘dead’ language. It probably is really useful though, however, if it makes a few people grumble, it is seen as a useless degree.
  • English Literature is one of those subjects that is beautiful and fascinating, but people question the relevance of it. If you’re not going to be an English teacher, then maybe it can be seen as a bit pointless.
  • Finally, this one is probably in the same boat as English Literature. Religion. If you’re not going to teach it, then people think it is a bit of a waste of time.

There are plenty of other degrees which provoke debate about relevance: Philosophy, Brewology, Film, Dance, Communications, Space Law (Sunderland University). The list is endless.

The point in this post wasn’t to judge people on what sort of degree they do or to say whether a degree is pointless or not; it is about the thought process behind choosing a degree. There is no point in choosing a degree just because you like the subject. You have to think about what you’re going to do after your three years, how is your degree going to help you get there? Don’t just jump into it because it’s what you think you have to do – you’re going to be stuck with it for the rest of your life. It will be how people judge you before they meet you. It is one of the most important decisions you will ever make.

It is also about the debate over degree status. Does every subject need to have ‘degree status?’

A lap dance for education

Posted March 16, 2010 by nicholaspeterrobinson
Categories: Uncategorized

The question on most students lips before they go to university: “What am I going to do for money?”

And the answer: “Lap Dance.”

This may be an extreme example, yet it is a problem most university students will have and it is happening – why?

University should be about broadening the mind. Earning cash while at university should be a very quiet noise in the background.

Students put a lot of trust in the Government before they go to university. Not having to repay your loan until you’re earning £15,000 or more, is one of the perks which Government sells university with – this is where the foundation of trust is formed and this is where the people who don’t want to be at university get sucked in.

Blinding people with perks to reach a target and build a “knowledge economy” is going to cause more problems than it solves, it is going to cause unnecessary debt.

Solving a cash problem couldn’t be as simple as making it free, could it?

Shai Reshef, founder and president of an online university may have solved a small part of the problem. The entrepreneur has more than 20 years experience in education and wants to help those who can’t afford to reach  the next step.

The “University of the People”, in one year, already has over 300 students from over 80 countries.

Although the UoP is not yet an accredited organisation, it still provides the same knowledge and skills which you can get from a normal university. This could be a way to change part of the higher education system.

Gaining a degree online will have drawbacks, even if it is free.

University is a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to get access to a unlimitted amount of knowledge. If students were studying from a computer, in their own home, it will not compare to the resources and tools which can be found in a university, but if you put the two together and reduced the cost of a degree, it could appeal to and benefit more people.

Universities will have to look at how they are going to deliver more with less and without scrapping the ambitious plan to point 50% of 30-year-olds and unders to higher education.

Maintaining quality instead of quantity is what the Government should be focusing on. If they want to grow the minds of the population then it can’t be done the same way you mass produce and sell something – people are going to end up with an education with missing parts and you can’t put in a bag of spares at the end of a persons degree.

This is all still part of the big question: “What is a degree worth?” It is still worth more, in most cases, than not having a degree at all.

People can’t be expected to lap dance for their degree. How is one supposed to expand one’s mind in a smokey basement?

The University Debate – scrap the 50% and Pic ‘n’ Mix

Posted March 10, 2010 by nicholaspeterrobinson
Categories: Uncategorized

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  The Government’s plan to have 50% of under 30-year-olds go onto higher education should be scrapped.

Today the BBC reported that, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (ARG), the aim to have 50% of the population educated to a degree level is unrealistic and should be scrapped.

 The report also says that the plan to increase the amount of people going on to study a degree had caused “damage to the university experience” and has “driven down standards within universities”.

 Aiming to have such a high amount of people in higher education is going to drive standards down and make the experience worse. If you encourage large amounts of people to do something, not everyone is going to be happy with all the options; this means you have to create more options.

 Thinking-up degrees to appease the ever-increasing population of education ‘abusers’ is going to drive the overall standards of a degree down. If the Government is creating Degrees and, almost selling them like a product, then the quality of the education is going to decrease.

 The Birmingham Post, this week, reported that Universities in the region are offering courses in ‘Celebrity Journalism’ and ‘Geaography with mountaineering and Fashion Accesories’ which gives students the chance to create bags, shoes and belts which are suitable for, yes, mountaineering.

 Is it right that a course such as, Celebrity Journalism, has an outcome with degree status, when degrees are supposed to be about expanding your mind?

 Arguably, Celebrity Journalism is expanding the mind and challenging the ethics of the [media] industry but, when education is about to have serious budget cuts should we still have the option to have a degree in how to make jewelery, when they could be learnt as an apprentice?

 Can a degree end up being a mixture of different things? Celebrity Journalism could be covered on a conventional Journalism degree but, as a module. What if you didn’t want to study journalism though, what if you wanted to look at celebrities, something in philosophy and then something to do with maths.

 ‘Pic and Mix’ degrees might have more value, they could create validity, once again, and also bring the degree back up to what it once was – an expansion of the mind and not just a ‘life experience’.