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A Sign of the Times — Oxford University to Require Contracts of Students

Oxford University has decided to require new students to sign contracts obligating them to attend classes and lectures, and to fulfill course requirements. As The Observer [London] explains, the university faculty is concerned about possible litigation from students who accuse the university of failing to educate them — when they failed to attend lectures or complete assignments.

This is surely a sign of the times. The very fact that a university would have to require students to sign such a contract tells us a great deal about the students, the times, and the culture of higher education today.

From The Observer:

The contract, believed to be the first of its kind at an English university, is being seen as a way of protecting the institution from litigious students, who may demand more for their money when tuition fees rise to £3,000 a year in September.

The contract would bind students to attend lectures and tutorials, complete written work and attend practical lessons. It would also set out the care and attention students should receive from the university in return. It would not, however, specify the minimum number of hours of teaching undergraduates should expect.

The Financial Times offers this explanation:

Oxford University has taken steps to protect itself from disgruntled students by drawing up contracts that will oblige undergraduates to work for their degrees. The contracts, drafted by Michael Beloff QC, will require a new breed of fee-paying “student consumers” – who are demanding ever higher standards from universities – to do a reasonable amount of work, including attending lectures and completing essays.

According to the agreement, students must “pursue such studies as are required of you by any tutor, fellow or lecturer, or other qualified person assigned by the college to teach you”. Oxford hopes the move will give the university some legal protection from disgruntled students who fail to get their expected examination results.