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Combined Studies students left to ponder their future after the discipline is dropped

Combined studies will no longer be offered as a degree option by the University of Manchester. The course will be phased out, allowing this year’s new undergraduates to complete their final year, but no candidates will be admitted in 2011/12.

The course allowed students to study in two separate and otherwise unrelated academic areas. The first year of the course featured a mandatory volunteering project, where students raised money and awareness for charities in Manchester both nationally and internationally.

Students were not informed about the possibility of the course being withdrawn until the decision was finalised. In the final weeks of the last academic year, students were shown around the potential location for a new combined studies common room, and encouraged to give their feedback.

In July, new and returning students were sent a letter informing them that “following a review of the programme by the Faculty of Humanities[…] Combined Studies will admit its final cohort of first year students in 2010. “

The letter, from Alistair Ulph, then Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, contained no information as to what the review had found or why the action had been taken.

“Cutting combined studies is a sign of things to come rather than a one-off,” said Jamie Woodcock, Postgraduate representative on the Student Council and a member of Manchester University Against Cuts.

“When we approached the head of combined studies, they said that the university could not provide students with the support they would like to provide. We were told that there had been consultation with students on how to improve the course.

“The problem was with the number of tutors. We asked if it was an issue of funding, which they refuted. But with the right money, could there not be enough tutors?”

“We are going to see a lot more of this over this year and years to come. The problem with combined studies was the nature of the degree. It is symbolic of university education. It was not a profitable course.

“If you want to study history and life sciences, why not? We are going to see more streamlining and less module choice as the university focuses on more profitable education,” added Woodcock.

“I think combined studies is one of the best things the University offers,” said Martyna Sataite, second year combined studies student. “Not giving that choice will mean the University will lose very good people. More independent people with the ability to study multiple disciplines at once tend to choose a combined studies degree.“

Neil Ferguson, Head Of Faculty Academic Services for the Faculty of Humanities, said: “This has been part of an ongoing review. Courses are opening and closing all the time. It’s just that Combined Studies comes to more people’s notice because it is a larger program.

“It is not part of [a policy to streamline courses and reduce costs]. Combined Studies, it allows students to study over a number of pathways. Many of those pathways are replicated in other areas of the university. If you want to study French and German, you can do that within Languages, Linguistics and Cultures.”

When asked about more diverse combinations of subjects that will no longer be offered, Ferguson said: “You would be able to study aspects of these different subjects, albeit in a different way. It is always possible to take a couple of outside subjects within the context of a normal degree program. Much of the provisions of Combined Studies are replicated elsewhere in the faculty.”

Tags: Adam Farnell, combined studies, cuts

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