Students’ choice halved as department is forced to cut half-units

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A major reduction in the number of half-units on offer to third year English Literature and Creative Writing students has left only five half units available to students next year. According the departments, this is due to staffing problems and internal changes.

In the academic year 2010/11 a choice of 16 half-units was offered to students selecting their third year modules. By 2011/12 this figure has been cut by half; offering a choice of five half-units from the department, with a further three available from the department of European Languages and Cultures. In addition the Women Writers course, a full-unit module, has been cut due to problems with staff availability.

But additional places on the most popular half-units have been added to allow students to study the modules that they find most interesting. The department will introduce a new full-unit module on contemporary writing, which is designed to cover much of the material previously taught in half-units. Moreover, they have opened up the third year ENGL307 Film and Literature module to second as well as third year students.

Head of English Literature and Creative Writing Dr Robert Appelbaum said: “Changes in the way our department is funded have the potential of jeopardizing the quality of our teaching provision, and staff members in the department are discussing ways of improving our offerings with or without cuts. But I am confident that for next year the range and quality of our courses will be just as exciting and rewarding as it has been this current year.”

The Music department has also suffered from cuts to modules, meaning courses that initially attracted students to Lancaster University have been removed, before students have completed their degree. The composition module has become part of music technology, considerably altering the module structure and courses, such as performance, have had to restrict numbers because they are expensive to run.

One student said: “Unfortunately the choices afforded to me when applying are no longer available. It means that I am leaving university with a degree that I could have got anywhere and it is not the unique and different degree that I was hoping for, in order to differentiate me when I left.”

They added: “The [department’s] answer to reducing choice in the department has been that we still had some choice. In most other universities you do not have any choice in modules within departments. However, I feel that this is not a good enough defence. The department should want to improve itself and be better and more attractive than other universities.”

The new LICA building is another area of contention, since some music students, who are from the Lancaster Institute of Contemporary Arts (LICA), believe that they have not benefitted from the site, having no lectures or seminar within the building; instead seeing students from other disciplines benefit from the purpose built construction.

However, despite the unrest within the department the student wanted to“take a moment to pass on praise to the lecturing staff. They have continued to try and offer a wide range of choices.”

Last year SCAN reported on the fallout that was felt across the department of Politics and International Relations, now Politics, Philosophy and Religion, when the 25 modules available to third year students was more than halved leaving a choice of only 12 modules. Entire research areas ceased and students no longer felt that they had the options to tailor their degree to their specific interests. The course representative at the time, Dan Darragh said, ‘“What made our politics department attractive for many students was the wide scope of modules they offered, and now this is gone.”

In a recent interview, head of the department Professor Robert Geyer said: “The goal was to combine clear Politics and International Relations, Philosophy and Religious Studies pathways with greater choice/options in linked fields.” He added: “I am pleased to say that applications to the Politics program for 2011/12 have gone up by around 150%. This is one of the largest increases in the University.”

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