Degree double dealing: biology department gets £16.5k per student; philosophy and history just £4.5k


The university spends £10k per year more on each biology and chemistry student than it does philosophy, history and law students.

A York Vision investigation today exposes how humanities students are paying massively over the odds for their degree, and are funding other students’ studies.

All students pay £9,000 per year for their degree, but history and philosophy students see less than half of that money given to their department.

The university is making huge investments into some courses, building a £5 million new building for biology.

Nearly four times the amount of funding per student is diverted towards the biology department than is given to a range of humanities subjects.

Students taking sociology, modern languages, business, politics, and English all see less than two thirds of the money they pay go to the department they study in.

Meanwhile, the biology, chemistry, physics and computer science departments roll in budgets of over £10k per student.

Lizzie Connolly, a 3rd Year philosophy student told York Vision: “I couldn’t believe it when I found out – we pay the same as science yet get a quarter of their funding! 

“Science students don’t pay for labs so Humanities students could at least get all the books on their lengthy required reading list for free.”

In all, 17 departments receive less than £9,000 per head, and the other seven departments get over £10k for every student.


David Duncan, University Secretary and Registrar, defended the mismatch: “It is true that some programmes cost more to deliver than others, especially if they involve heavy use of laboratories and scientific equipment.

“Disciplines involving professional placements in health and social care settings can also require higher levels of staffing.

“However, calculating the cost of delivering a teaching programme is not straightforward – for example, should library costs be disproportionately allocated to subjects which require more reading? 

“Also, we need to take into account the direct funding which the Higher Education Funding Council For England provides for science and technology subjects.”

However, York Vision can also reveal that even when lab costs are accounted for, biology students are still receiving three times the amount of funding than philosophy students.

The amount allocated for staff costs to biology is a massive £11,779 per student compared to £3,937 per student in philosophy and a measly £3,668 in Law. 

Some students have pointed out that a lack of funding may be harming the quality of humanities departments. 

Third year Law student Emily Morris said: “It is very disappointing to hear that the law department is one of the least funded departments especially since it has decreased in the league tables since I started at the unviersity.

“When I first started, it was fifth in the league tables but now it is tenth which suggests that funding and other resources are essential to improve its ranking.”

Philosophy and history that recieve the least funding, dropped six places and five places respectively in the Guardian league tables. 

Modern Languages, also one of the least funded departments, has plummeted from 28th last year to 46th this year in the league tables.

The Guardian also reported that spending per student  in modern languages dropped from a 7/10 to a shocking 4/10 rating.

The department of sociology also saw a decrease in funding from last year.

YUSU President Ben Leatham blamed the government for raising tuition fees. He said: “I understand the concerns that students have but the issue is largely out of the university’s control.

“With the trajectory of marketisation that Higher Education is on, universities have little choice but to charge full fees in order to remain financially stable…

“Regarding universities, we must influence them to do more about hidden course and accommodation costs that are financially overwhelming for many students.”

However, students have raised questions about the transparency of the university on the matter of funding allocation.

Luke Elliott, a third year physics student, said: “Clearly there are questions to be asked regarding the criteria by which funding is allocated to departments. 

“With tuition fees expected to rise following the Government’s higher education paper, it’s more important than ever that the university communicates to students what is happening with their money.”

Some have also highlighted that there may also be a disparity in what students get for their money with regards to contact hours, with humanities having much fewer hours of teaching in the week.

Anoosh Djavaheri, a third Year Philosophy student said: “Philosophy has very few contact hours, so to find out only £4,400 out of £9,000 goes twards our degree is very irritating.”

He went on to add: “I think the university should have to justify the rise of tuition fees to £9,000 considering we pay only £4,600 of this to our actual degree.

“The rest is going on things I probably don’t care for and on other people’s degrees. If I wanted to help fund biology, I would have taken biology. But hey,  even then I would be £7,000 in pocket!”

2 thoughts on “Degree double dealing: biology department gets £16.5k per student; philosophy and history just £4.5k

  1. I was well aware that my 9K a year was helping to fund the studies of others who took subjects that used expensive equipment etc. What’s the alternative? Either a crap science course is delivered or people are punished for taking sciences by having to pay more? The fees are obviously a disgrace but this is a massive non-issue for most students

  2. I should be noted that the £5 million biology building is being constructed so the department can provide teaching space for the brand new M.Biol course. The first cohort of 4th year M.Biol students will be using the building when it opens next academic year so it is not to provide more teaching space and facilities for Bsc students.

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