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The University management’s announcement of wanting to extend teaching hours, without adequately consulting students, has captured the attention of many and caused a lot of concern.
On Tuesday, the Union’s Full Time Officers (FTOs) and its members of staff met with the University for more in-depth discussions on said initiative. Sadly, the FTOs’ public statement reports that they “left the meeting with no confidence that the concerns of the union or the student body were appreciated or understood or that the university is prepared to think again about its plans in response to our objections”.
As it was made clear last week, the extension of teaching hours is the result of an increase in student numbers and the university’s inability to provide suitable teaching spaces for everyone. Legitimately, one student asked whether this plan is a permanent solution and the University attempted to bring reassurance by saying that “new teaching space is planned to be built in with the University’s planned growth”.
In the open letter to the Vice Chancellor Mark E Smith, our University Counsellors recalled the hard times that the University faced during the flooding of the Lancaster area and suggested that “such measures might be justifiable if temporary – such as in response to the flooding of the last three years – but this does not appear to be the case”.
One student asked how long the University has been aware of this problem, another asked why students have not been consulted. The University said that the students’ suggestions, shared by the FTOs, have been noted; however, leaving such questions unanswered can potentially lead students to believe that the University has prioritised increasing student numbers over ensuring that the current students’ experience remains of high quality.
The University stated that the current draft timetable only sees a small amount of classes extended to 7pm, and that will remain “probably well under 1%”. Whilst the percentage might appear significantly small, this can hardly be considered a success. Until the final timetables will be shared at the beginning of the academic year, students will keep wondering if and how they will be impacted.
Furthermore, the University shared with SCAN that an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) has been produced to consider the potential impact on different groups of students. “The EIA is used to anticipate the impact of a change in policy and a working group, including Students’ Union representatives, will be charged with understanding the actual impact on all students and staff and with work to mitigate any adverse impact”, said the University. On the matter, students have increasingly expressed concerns about how mature students and individuals with caring responsibilities will be protected, as they already tend to feel excluded from the “traditional” student experience.
Lastly, the negative impact on peoples’ welfare has gained a lot of attention both in regards to students and staff members. On the one hand, student leaders have asked how the University can ensure that longer teaching hours are not going to have an impact on welfare-related events. On the other hand, our University Counsellors have pointed out that “tired, frustrated lecturers and tutors are inevitably going to be less effective at teaching, further damaging the high-quality academic experience Lancaster prides itself on”.