There has been a growing trend developing over the last several years of undergraduate students in the UK relying on private tutors to help them make it through their degrees. While in the past, private tuition of this nature has generally been associated with children and teenagers, the further education sector is seeing an increase in the number of students who feel ill-equipped to handle their degrees without the assistance of a private tutor.
One study, by UNiDAYS, suggested that as many as 1 in 5 students studying for an undergraduate degree have engaged the services of a private tutor.
Students today are facing ever more pressure as they undertake their studies. As more adults head to university and the percentage of working-age adults with university educations increases, there is a growing reliance on graduating with an upper second or first class degree in order to land a job in the graduate’s field. Students who are in any doubt over whether they will be able to achieve these degrees may well turn to the services of a private tutor.
According to Mylene Curtis, who is the managing director of a company that provides tutors to higher education students, a growing number of students are arriving at university lacking skills that not long ago would have been considered basic for a university student. In particular, her organisation has noted that the writing skills of many university students today are not up to the same standard that they were a decade or so ago.
Changes to the way that compulsory and higher education is taught in the UK seems to be an important factor in causing this change in standards. It seems that students are not being equipped with the same skills that they once were. However, this phenomenon is unlikely to be attributable to a single variable. There is likely a multitude of things to consider in assessing the cause.
Technology has undoubtedly changed the way that students write, and the skills that they develop. Many adults today grew up with access to technology which corrected errors in spelling and grammar for us. As such, it could be argued that the average university student today simply hasn’t had the same practice or training as students in previous years would have had.
That university students are calling on private tutors is not in itself an issue. In fact, it could equally be argued that the rise in the number of students taking advantage of such services is simply down to increased availability and accessibility. Students today are more likely to have received private tutoring while studying at the lower levels of education. If a student has previous experience of using high-quality teachers via Teachers To Your Home when they were younger, for example, they are more likely to see this as a viable option when they are studying in further education.
With students increasingly feeling that they need to be attaining the very best grades possible throughout their education, and with the added pressure of succeeding in their increasingly expensive university educations, it is perhaps not that surprising that we are witnessing the kind of increase that we are seeing in the use of private tutoring.
A Thriving Marketplace
Another factor to consider when trying to make sense of the increase is one of simple economics. With more students taking advantage of private tutoring, other students are becoming more aware of the option and are, therefore, more likely to engage with these services than they otherwise would have been. For the tutoring companies themselves, the viability of this new market has been established. As a result, many tutoring companies will now be willing to look for opportunities beyond the lower education levels where private tutoring has mostly been seen before.
One company offering these services cited prices of £65 an hour, on top of a £50 placement fee, for undergraduate level tuition. With that kind of money on offer, it’s easy to see the attraction from the perspective of the tutoring services themselves.
It seems like it is a combination of these forces: the increasing pressure on students, the decreasing value of their degrees, and the increasing costs of attending university are all acting in concert to create a situation previously unseen in further education in the UK.
The debate as to the long-term significance of this trend is likely to continue for some time. However, barring a major shakeup of the UK education system, or of the jobs marketplace for students with a university degree, it is likely that this state of affairs will become the new norm. As long as students are paying significant sums to attend university, and feeling that they need to get their money’s worth, they will undoubtedly continue to use private tutoring.