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Clued-up students can make schools pay price for the high cost of failure

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Did you fail your degree? If so, who did you break the news to first? Your parents? Your friends? Your bank manager? The latter is likely to be a serious consideration for the 12 per cent of third-year architecture students who have just been informed that they have failed Part 1.

As Terri Whitehead argues in her review of this year's student shows (pages15-17), eager architecture students have access to an increasing range of intellectual and cultural resources in the form of open lectures, magazines and websites.The traditional notion of the tutor/mentor who acts as the gatekeeper to knowledge is out of date.Nowdays, the school's most fundamental obligation is to ensure that students'enthusiasms and energy are sufficiently focussed to jump through the necessary hoops on the route to professional qualification. It is an obligation which is narrowly defined and clearly understood.And while it does not entirely exonerate students from responsibility for their own performance, it rests on the assumption that all but the most incompetent or indifferent can be relatively confident of success.

When 93 per cent of third-year students at the University of Central England are deemed unfit to be awarded a degree, the school has clearly failed to deliver.Students who should be celebrating their graduation are dealing with confusion, battered morale and an embarrassing glitch on the CV which could have a detrimental impact on their future career.And to a student population faced with the prospect of completing their diploma up to £40,000 in debt, the financial implications of retaking a year, or even of devoting the summer holidays to college work rather than gainful employment, are readily quantifiable and relatively straightforward to prove. In forcing students to face up to the financial value of their education, we have created a generation which is increasingly clued up to its consumer rights.How long will it be before we see solicitors pawing through exam results with a view to instigating mass tort claims against ineffectual schools? In the future, calls to bank manager, family and friends could play second fiddle to the phone call to a lawyer.

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