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The University management has recently announced proposals to extend teaching hours
from the beginning of the next academic year. Students may, therefore, expect to undertake academic activities until 7pm throughout the week, excluding Wednesdays.
This initiative appears to be a reaction to student numbers constantly increasing, as well as a consequence of the current absence of suitable teaching spaces. When asked to provide more details on the matter, the University have told SCAN that the pilot scheme is likely to be focused on a small number of departments. Such statement, however, does not help the concerns on the effects that the changes are likely to have on students’ lives, nor justifies the lack of appropriate students’ consultation on the matter.
Immediately after the news release, the Students’ Union has created a Facebook poll on
their page that allowed students to have their say: over 300 have voted to have live video
streaming of lectures with online space to submit questions, over 150 have suggested to
bring in temporary classrooms, and less than 30 were in favour of using Wednesday
afternoons for teaching.
Moreover, students have given SCAN widely varied responses to the proposition, though a
feeling that the extended teaching hours could negatively affect different factors of their
lives from their part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities (such as sport and societies), and
their mental health & well-being, has been noted.
One student said, ‘I’d prefer for the University to extend teaching hours only on a
Wednesday, because it is one specific day which can be set aside for students to stay on
campus for longer.’ Yet, doing so would negatively impact the non-academic side of
students’ experiences and prevent the development of skills ‘crucial for maintaining a
healthy work/life balance and fulfilling wellbeing needs,’ as asserted by the Students’ Union
Officers’ statement to the University management.
One of the main concerns voiced about the proposals addressed how it would affect
students who commute into Lancaster for their studies. A second-year commuting student
said, ‘From the point of view of someone who has to travel for an hour and walk at least
10 minutes to-and-from my car to the lecture theatres, teaching hours continuing until 7pm could mean that I don’t get home until after 8pm, and I know this could be even later for other people. In winter months, this means dark and potentially icy and dangerous road
conditions. If I happened to have a 9am lecture, it could also potentially mean leaving my
house 12 hours before I’d be setting off from university to come home. These are
uncommonly long hours, particularly if I have no lectures or seminars to fill the middle
hours of my day.’
Lastly, the University has mentioned that they remain ‘committed to promoting equality,
diversity and inclusion in work and in study’, however, the current scenario fails to provide
students and staff reassuring evidence of this. As noted by another student, extending teaching hours until 7pm could cost her the money she could be earning at her part-time job to afford her education, while also pointing out that the extra hour does not account for mature students with children. Consequently, it is evident that going ahead with this proposal would contradict the University’s policy of inclusivity as its implementation would actively make education more inaccessible for particular social groups.