Rent, energy, food, and travel costs are all things that we in society must grapple with, but through the eyes of a student, the recent drastic inflation rise is an ever-tightening challenge on our allocated funding, which most receive through the Student Loan Company. So, is it fair that universities expect students to fork out on textbooks that are required for their courses?
The consensus is that most departments at Warwick are textbook-free, like in the rest of the country. The exceptions seem to be books in English and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) degrees, as well as in some very niche modules: for example, Japanese Studies attached to Computer Science at Cardiff University. Some departments do provide physical textbooks, such as the Warwick Physics department, with students getting to keep the book that covers first-year content.
It is great to see that most university departments have taken this position, and the remaining departments, that do require students to buy extra resources as a part of their course, should reconsider, as the students are already paying for their courses through tuition fees.
Everything required for the course should be packaged into the tuition fee cost.
The problem that comes to light is whether students from low socioeconomic backgrounds can afford devices such as laptops or tablets
However, this opens a different debate regarding whether physical textbooks should be prioritised over online text resources. Universities tend to have an extensive catalogue of texts in their libraries, that especially less affluent students can turn to if they require the physical copy of a textbook, but then issues arise about the number of textbooks that the library can lend out alongside the measly borrowing period.
I, for one, am very content with how my Politics Department’s reading is totally online. I have all my readings, from articles to book sections, in PDF form and neatly arranged through a software called Zotero, where I can write and highlight the texts and access them whenever I want on any device. Having these readings online, instead of having to flick through books and pages of notes, is incredibly efficient and makes organisation a blissful experience. If I ever require a physical copy, the library has almost always had what I was looking for.
The problem that comes to light is whether students from low socioeconomic backgrounds can afford devices such as laptops or tablets, but universities offer bursaries for such situations, alongside Warwick providing laptops on loan, free of charge to all students if they do not have a functioning computer. Therefore, I see this as a non-issue.
If any Module Director insists on students buying the ‘course textbook’ because they have authored it, well then, shame on them
I do, however, see the merits of having a physical textbook – especially if it is considered a workbook that has practice questions for calculations – so it is understandable why some STEM courses would need such books. But as stated before, these should be provided by the university if Module Directors wish to use them.
My course, and other Bachelor of Arts courses, would not really see a benefit from having one core textbook, as the literature required to successfully get high grades spans a wide range of sources, from articles to podcasts. This allows students to pick and choose literature that best explains concepts to them. The only requirement in this instance is for university departments to spend as much money as possible on licenses that allow students to access as many texts as possible free of charge.
In the end, it is up to the discretion of the Module Director if they want to build the module following a course textbook. Yet, since academia is constantly evolving from new theories to new historical events that influence how we perceive certain ideas, or new ideas and methods for calculations in STEM fields, Module Directors should be changing their courses to reflect this, rather than relying of one textbook that can become outdated quickly. If any Module Director insists on students buying the ‘course textbook’ because they have authored it, well then, shame on them.