I resigned as a lecturer after the university did not fail social work students. Whither youth and community students?

Ta to if.org.uk
Ta to if.org.uk

‘I resigned as a lecturer after the university did not fail social work students‘ is the title of a piece in Community Care, within which ‘a former social work senior lecturer details the on-going battle to maintain academic and professional standards amidst the marketisation of universities.’

The writer argues, “universities are prioritising customer service and student satisfaction rather than upholding professional standards and providing a rigorous but exacting education.

Many students, for their part, see themselves primarily as consumers rather than learners and have a profound sense of entitlement that if they have paid good money then they deserve a good degree.

The combination of these two forces – a demanding and vociferous student body who are quick to complain and litigate, and a squeamish management team who are more concerned about student numbers, generating income and ‘enhancing the student experience’ – make universities an uncomfortable environment for people like me to be working in.

Social work educators, desperately trying to raise the capacity and capability of the workforce with no support or understanding from university managers, are buckling under the pressure of maintaining ethical, practice and academic standards whilst simultaneously absorbing extra work.”

To what extent is this scenario reflected within youth and community courses in the present climate? From recent conversations with friends in academia it’s not wide of the mark.


  1. Now that we know student fees cost more to administer than the amount recouped (i.e. it would save money if higher education was free) this testimony adds to the weight of evidence that the rationale behind the fees system is ideological. In a nutshell, paying to go to university constitutes an individualising process designed to destroy the social values associated with education for the common good. Furthermore, it indoctrinates students into contractualism: teaching that all in life has to be bought and sold. It seems to be working.

  2. I’ve been concerned for years that initial youth work training through to professional (supposedly) training in this region is often delivered by non trained non professional tutors, that syllabus does not refer to children and young peoples rights and that a buffoon could qualify cos that’s how institutions get paid. Then we could get into nepotism, the dubious role of agencies and the awarding of training contracts, the inability to challenge the status quo – and what do we end up with….diminished, if any services – being delivered by well intentioned (or otherwise)poorly equipped individuals – what to do??

  3. I have to say this is far from my experience… Yes the culture of higher education has changed but not beyond all recognition. I had a P/G student tell me she ‘pays my wages’ a few years ago, but this kind of attitude is the exception rather than the norm… (needless to say this provided the opportunity for a conversation about the neo liberal construction of the individual as consumer…). Students do fail our programmes if they are unsuitable, and the programmes are in the main delivered by committed, professional and highly qualified youth & community work academics who uphold our values. Students in the main operate within that value base as well and are encouraged to be critical (if they are not already) of the dominant discourse. Remember also prospective students are interviewed for the programme (an NYA requirement) as Sue Robertson once said at a ‘History of Y & C Work’ conference on the history of training programmes the key is often to ensure one to recruits the ‘right’ students…

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