By Emma Videan
Last week, Gair Rhydd reported about the “Transforming Cardiff” proposals. After a Q&A session, the true impact and detailed scale of the changes are yet to be concluded. In an open letter to Vice Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, concerns of the Students Union were raised, much of which surrounded the proposed ‘reconfiguration’ of the Schools of English, Communication & Philosophy, Modern Languages and Welsh into a new ‘School of Literatures, Languages and Creative Practice’.
Without doubt, the open letter does address the major questions about how a high quality of teaching can be maintained where lecturers will have an increased workload by teaching more students from different areas of academia. There seems to be potential for a reduction of contact hours and the cancelling of more niche modules.
The vague wording about ‘cross-subject opportunities’ with the School of Journalism, Media and Culture suggests that lecture sizes will be larger and content will be broader so that it remains relevant for people studying very different degrees. Arguably, some might see that this will allow students to be exposed to a broader sphere of knowledge and be able to keep their graduate employment opportunities open.
However, this is not a viewpoint I share. Being taught in huge lecture halls with over a hundred students makes me feel as though I am just one of many and often leads to a lacking in direct communication with the lecturer. From a student’s perspective, it feels as though this de-personalized teaching style means that everyone is taught the broad context of a topic and then expected to teach themselves the details, which will no doubt be expected of them in coursework and exams.
Additionally, with large teaching groups, it seems as though it is a certainty that the staff will have a small amount of time that they can dedicate to one-to-one meetings, email responses will likely take longer and, as the open letter points out, there will be an increased burden on Postgraduate Research students working as tutors and demonstrators across the university. Moreover, from a practical point of view if this new school is to work with JOMEC, there are likely to be even more problems that there already are with travelling between buildings for lectures and seminars.
Personally, this makes me concerned for the future of these subjects and the quality of the teaching. The Vice Chancellor has refused to rule out compulsory redundancies and evidence is pointing towards an increased workload for the remaining staff and less interaction for the students, who will still be paying for these services.