Studies at £9000 a year… a waste of money?

I recently read an article published in The Guardian about the distress of a tutor regarding the consumerist attitude of her students, and it is difficult then not worrying about our future.

I remember my student’s years.
It started in France, Bordeaux University; convenient because close of home but also with a good reputation in art history. I remember paying about 300€ per year, and thought this was quite expensive for my budget (!).
We respected overall our teachers, even if we may have hated few of them sometimes (especially when they announce you they gave a 5/20 because “if they note you right, this will be too easy for you to pass the exams”). And oh boy! They didn’t like to make things easy…! For a dissertation, you had to find your own sources, and the documentation you needed were in many different places: libraries of different towns, archives… I had to drive to abandoned churches in middle of nowhere in order to take their pictures because they were no pictures in any books consulted (aaaah, mediaeval studies!). I even had to go to Paris once, and pay the trip myself (but the joy to discover the beautiful INHA library make it worth!!!). And about pictures, well, you were partially judged on their quality because, if ever you wanted to be published, then your pictures are better to be attractive!

Church of Lugos, Landes, France
INHA, Library, Salle Ovale (

Despite this, I passed my exams and started my postgraduate studies with a 2 years master of research. We, then, even more respected our ‘Maître’, he/she was the person to trust, who enlighten your topic thanks to his/her knowledge, who asked you the right question in order to help you to built the subject of your dissertation.

As my focus was the 18th century British Art, I had the immense honour (thanks to Erasmus program) to go to Brighton, University of Sussex for my second year and what a shock!
Sooo easy!!! Everything we ever needed were… well… simply at the university itself! The documentations and the courses? Given by your teacher, online! Plus, we called our teachers by their first name (and THAT was a real shock for the Frenchie I was….!).

Falmer Campus, University of Sussex

It is true we had a huge technologic gap in Bordeaux, but even if I was glad I had all I needed for my subject, a part of me was slightly disappointed by the fact it was all here. Tuition fees were of course different too: I paid in Bordeaux 400€ for each year of Master, where my European classmates paid £4000, and international students almost £10 000. Even then, I thought this was crazy to pay that much, but acknowledged in the same time that with this money the university was also modern, clean, and let’s be honest, it was a very agreeable place to be…!

So now, European students pay in the UK £9000 per year. £9000! I would never ever been able to afford this! and even now! And how I would have regret it!! I am not working in a museum or in auction house and of all my classmates, only one succeed to work in the art field. Were my student’s years in art history a waste then? Of course not! It helped me to have a very good job  because I learned among others, how to analyse, to question a picture, to develop a lateral thinking and to trust in my capability to find a solution by myself. And all this, were of course to be extended to others subject too, it wasn’t only about art history.

This valuable teaching is not quantifiable. Students are right to be angry for paying so much but if they think that teaching can be bought… this is their loss, and such a childish way of thinking: it would be like paying for a magic pill which would make you suddenly smart! Teachers I had were mentally stronger too, they didn’t care much what the students were thinking of them… is the scholar system falling so low??? I truly hope this is just an example and we shouldn’t make this case a generality, but truth is, I am not sure…


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