The coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt studies, and when students return to campus this month it will look very different.
Lectures will now be delivered online, masks will be compulsory around campus, and freshers week will be largely virtual.
But many students believe one issue has been overlooked amid the upheaval caused by the pandemic: a removal of many of the study choices that have been afforded to them in previous years.
As the university pursues cuts as a result of budgetary pressures, module choices across the university have been slashed.
Third years on the BA Social Sciences programme have had 39 modules cut, and the Social Anthropology department has removed all optional modules for second-year students.
Now angry students have spoken out, saying that they weren’t consulted on the changes and had no time to plan.
One second-year sociology student, who chose to remain anonymous, told The Mancunion that when they came to choose their preferred modules they no longer existed. They added that the University gave them no time to respond or even suspend their studies.
Following last years strikes and the Covid-19 pandemic, Libby Mercer, a second-year Social Anthropology student, said the university experience was “not what she signed up for”.
Mercer will now be forced to study core modules, with no choice over her degree. “Because it’s affecting everyone right now its kind of the mentality that I just have to get on with it, but your degree shouldn’t be something you just get on with,” she said.
Other students have told The Mancunion the cuts will be detrimental to their mental health, with some emotionally distressed when they found out.
While nobody could have foreseen the pandemic, some said they had chosen to attend UoM based on the wide range of modules available, most of which are no longer offered.
A second-year Drama with French student added: “I knew the second year would be compromised, but this comes as a double whammy.”
Another concern among students is that most cuts to modules are on topics beyond the core curriculum, raising questions in light of the university’s statements supporting Black Lives Matter and the decolonising the curriculum.
Modules such as ‘Black Identities in Latin America’ and ‘Social Thought from the Global South” in the School of Social Sciences have been temporarily scrapped.
The social anthropology department says it will offer alternative workshops and reading groups on topics such as “decolonising anthropology” but campus campaigners see these modules as crucial to challenging the western canon.
The Mancunion asked the University to respond to this, and to questions regarding students’ mental health and the longevity of the module changes.
In response, UoM issued the following statement through a spokesperson: “As an institution, we understand these are extremely challenging times for our new and returning students, but the University is doing its utmost to ensure the return to campus and study is as straightforward as possible.
“To provide the best possible teaching and learning experience for our students we asked all faculties, schools and departments to review their courses for the forthcoming academic year.
“The portfolio of course modules is subject to change every year but, due to the pandemic, the scale of change has increased this year as we need to plan and prepare for all eventualities.
“We recognise that student choice is important, but we also need to ensure that the University can deliver the timetabled and required course options reliably, consistently and to the extremely high standards our students have come to expect.”
Have you also been affected by changes to your module choices? Please let us know at: [email protected]