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Every aspect of university life plays a part in the student experience, says VC

In his first major speech as Chair of the 1994 Group of leading research-intensive universities, the Vice-Chancellor has warned that government proposals for higher education “will not dramatically enhance the student experience”.

Professor Michael Farthing, Vice-Chancellor, delivering a speechProfessor Michael Farthing, Vice-Chancellor

Speaking at the fifth annual ‘Enhancing the Student Experience’ conference on Tuesday (15 November), Professor Michael Farthing argued that every aspect of university life plays a part in creating outstanding student experiences, and that the government cannot afford to ignore important issues such as research, internationalism and postgraduate study. 

Professor Farthing also warned against the dangers of viewing undergraduates purely as consumers. He said: “Universities are so much more than warehouses that sell off-the-shelf qualifications, and students are more than consumers purchasing degree certificates. 

“We need to talk about the student experience less in terms of transactions and more in terms of relationships. Universities are communities where people come together to create and share knowledge. We do students a disservice if we value them as anything other than active participants in these communities.” 

He criticized the government for “decoupling research from teaching” in its higher education White Paper, because this means the “government has failed to recognise the holistic experience that universities strive to create for students”. 

“Excellent research-informed teaching is key to an outstanding student experience,” argued Professor Farthing. “As we say – you’re not being taught from a textbook, you’re being taught by the men and women who are actually writing the textbook. This principle should be cherished and protected.” 

Professor Farthing became Chair of the 1994 Group in October 2011.