Funding and finding textbooks: the added expense of studying

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By Thea Powell, Features Subeditor

With reading lists and insufficient library resources posing an extra cost to student life, Epigram investigates the damages.

It’s safe to say that our studies, whichever degree we choose to study, are rooted in the resources we read and have access to: they are not only full of another world of information and critical opinion, they are the springboard for our independent thought, and allow us to expand our minds at a level not offered to us in our previous schooling. And yet one of the biggest surprises I’ve found upon reaching university is the difficulty students face when trying to find or fund the essential resources for our weekly work – and a lot of people I’ve spoken to about it are pretty peeved, too.

The first dilemma you might face is actually getting your hands on the books you need. Naturally, English reading lists are longer than other degrees with a different selection of reading, such as STEM subjects, but from speaking to friends who study a whole variety of subjects, the struggle to find the essential and recommended reading stretches far beyond the arts. The inspiration for this article came from a trip to Waterstones, where a Law student friend and I both spent over £120 each on books for the next 12 weeks – I mean, really?

"From speaking to friends who study a whole variety of subjects, the struggle to find the essential and recommended reading stretches far beyond the arts,"

Obviously, we all know the library is amazing, and I mean in no way to criticise the resources the library is able to provide with the funding it has. But when there are over 80 people on a particular unit, all studying the same set texts, and there are less than 10 copies of this text in the library, it leaves students in a bit of a pickle, to say the least. If you don’t get your hands on a copy early, you’re left with long waiting lists that can’t guarantee you having the text in time for the seminar, and if you do manage to find one, someone else will request it, and you’re stuck having to return the book that you intended to use for the whole term within 7 days, or else have your library account suspended. Nightmare!

So, what’s left? Whilst E-books are known to disrupt sleeping habits, cause pain in your neck and shoulders, shorten your attention span, and strain your eyes, the alternative is no better: the price of buying only the essential texts needed for my seminars for this term would be £246.30 . Reading online or breaking the bank are my two basic options, and neither of them are sticking out to me as preferable, if I’m honest.

"Reading online or breaking the bank are my two basic options, and neither of them are sticking out to me as preferable, if I’m honest."

And then, of course, we come to the eternal dilemma. It’s the 21st-century equivalent of Shakespeare’s iconic question, and if he was here, he’d probably recognise this as more important than being, or not being: to Amazon, or not to Amazon? If we’re forced to buy our books, buying second-hand and supporting local businesses might lessen the financial pain a little, and make us feel slightly better and greener than supporting Jeff Bezos, but we can rarely rely on these shops for all our resources, nor can we expect them to provide multiple reasonably priced copies of ridiculously niche textbooks that no sane member of the public would ever dream of buying.

Our resources are our degree – shouldn’t the £9,250 we pay every year for our studies include guaranteed access to at least our essential reading?

Featured Image: Epigram | Flossie Palmer

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