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The Wednesday afternoons off policy for Lancaster students has recently been breached by various departments across the university, meaning many sports teams and societies have been suffering.
Wednesday afternoons are supposed to be kept free of seminars and lectures to give students time to take part in extra-curricular activities, which are generally scheduled in this time slot. However, despite the policy being traditionally honoured from both sides there is no official document stating as such and many departments have been able to manoeuvre around it without facing consequences.
LUSU Vice President (Sports). Marc Handley said: “From a sporting perspective, this Wednesday afternoon issue is quite frankly crippling some of our strongest teams, as players are simply not allowed to play due to academic commitments.”
The breach of this policy has meant many sports teams and societies have recently seen a reduction in numbers of players and members. In some cases sports players have been granted permission to miss seminars in order to participate in matches, and make up for the work in their own time, only then to be informed at the last minute that this will not be possible.
Handley cited several examples of those who have suffered including a team captain who has been “unable to play in vital away games this term due to the timetabling of his degree being placed directly on Wednesday afternoons”.
Handley added: “People are being restricted to just how much participation they get for their membership fee, which is something the university should not be dictating to its students.”
Third year Lancaster Criminology student Lesia Strilecki has a seminar scheduled at 3pm on a Wednesday and was told by her department that this could not be changed. She said: “They told us early on in the term that if we were in a society or club and wanted to move that there would be issues because the seminar that was at the 12-1pm time slot on a Wednesday was already full so no moving around could be made.”
Strilecki added: “There will always be people who get the short straw with regards to poor time slots of seminars and lectures but from when I first arrived at Lancaster University it was stressed that Wednesday afternoon was for sport and recreation only.”
Handley recognised that academic commitments must come first for any student, however, he said: “What departments don’t seem to realise is that a degree on its own simply isn’t good enough in the competitive graduate job markets that are out there. Employers want more. They want to see that the individual is more than just a 1st, 2:1 or 2:2, but a real person, with real skills. And some of these key life skills are gained by the work done by the members of our sports clubs and societies.”
Indeed, recent figures show that the graduate job market continues to become more competitive every year, despite the recession and funding cuts. The website Graduate-Jobs.com reported that the “number of students graduating from university in the UK rose by 5% last year”. This has come on the back of reports that universities have been turning away record numbers of applicants because they are too full. The Guardian reported that around 160,000 applicants missed out on places in 2010.
The issue has been raised with the relevant bodies, including Vice Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), Amanda Chetwynd and Handley remained hopeful of a positive outcome. However, he did stress that “we need to know as many people as possible who are affected by this issue, regardless of if they play for a sport club or not. The problem is much larger.”