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25th February 2024

9ams: The University needs a wake-up call

9am lectures and tutorials benefit nobody. They’re often simply written-off by students, and are a detriment to university education
9ams: The University needs a wake-up call
Credit: Jp Valery @ Unsplash

It’s 8:15 in the morning. The day dawns grey over Oxford Road as shattered columns of beleaguered students trudge north to bus stops and lecture halls. Some are still slightly drunk; most are still half asleep. These weary ranks of students are the victims of a glaring but often overlooked issue in the University of Manchester’s educational policy: the scourge of the 9am.

Perhaps you had a similar experience to me at the start of this semester, opening your timetable for the first time and seeing, like a row of gravestones bearing your own name, the solemn blocks of orange and green denoting consecutive 9am lectures. Perhaps also, like me, you immediately wrote off any chance of attending them.

Why does the University continue this practice? Surely, they must be aware that these early morning appointments are a reckless endangerment of their own educational principles. Can they not see, by attendance figures alone, that for most students they are simply inviable?

Has our University’s Vice-Chancellor Nancy Rothwell not overheard – shouted in nightclubs, muttered at pres, echoing around the very halls of university residences – this common exchange of views: “You got Uni tomorrow? Yeah, 9am though. You gonna go? Don’t be silly.”

The reality is, for many students with any semblance of a normal university/work-life balance, stepping foot in a lecture theatre (or anywhere else for that matter) before 11am is simply not done. What, then, of those chosen few?

The medics, the pharmacists, the physicists; those studying what the builder you’ve been accosted by at The Friendship Inn might refer to as a “proper degree”; those for whom attendance at 9ams is mandatory; those neurally maladjusted super-students who are able to wake up before lunch; those who, somehow, make it to the 9ams?

They, in their early morning lecture theatres, must be a sorry sight. Individual troopers or clusters of comrades spattered around the room, the heavy cloud of sleep not yet dissipated hanging in the air, pulling down eyelids and teasing out yawns. Most attendees developing crippling caffeine addictions, in a desperate attempt to remain at least semi-conscious throughout, consuming amounts that would be enough to kill a small horse (or at least give it very shaky hooves). What information can these poor souls be expected to effectively absorb under such conditions?

Not only must the University be aware of this, they seem also to be in on it as some twisted joke. There is a cruel irony in dragging weary, hungover, impressionable students out of their beds and placing them in theatres that seem engineered to provide the perfect conditions for sleep. Philosophy students like myself might recognise Humanities Bridgeford Street as one such place: soft warm lighting; the long curving lines of 1970s pebble-dashed architecture; plush cushioned benches; and the warm, comforting sounds of a middle aged Scotsman lecturing about epiphenomenalism, all luring you to peaceful slumber.

Spare a thought also for the lecturers. Yes, it is a scientific fact that adolescents and young adults need hours more sleep, but our staff are also not immune to the early morning blues. Freud was generally regarded as one of the foremost professors of his time by his contemporaries at the University of Vienna, and was renowned for his energetic and enigmatic lectures, often performed on staggeringly little sleep.

Unfortunately, however, in the hundred-or-so years since Sigmund’s heyday, certain medical and educational practises have fallen somewhat out of vogue, meaning our esteemed lecturers cannot rely on the copious consumption of self-prescribed cocaine, and so may find perking up their breakfast performances more of a challenge. If you think that attending 9ams is bad, try giving one! Imagine standing in front of a room full of bleary eyed, yawning, near-comatose students, and attempting to impart any sort of degree-level knowledge.

Surely a near impossible task.

The 9am lecture asks students to make a lose-lose decision: miss it and be forced to trawl through lecture material without the guidance of course leaders, ultimately resulting in an open-University style teach-yourself programme, a DIY degree, not quite worth the hefty price tag of £9,000. Or attend, and spend two hours desperately fighting off sleep, taking in very little of the information presented by a lecturer who has yet to wipe the sleep from their eyes, and spending the rest of the day in an exhausted daze.

It is glaringly obvious, is it not, that 9ams benefit nobody? Neither student nor lecturer gain from them, and in the end, they become something of a write-off, detrimental to grades and the broader acquisition of knowledge. Surely, if the powers that be at the University of Manchester were to give it any extended thought, they would see that a shift in timetabling preference to mid-day, to more sociable hours, would benefit everybody; and the student community of Manchester could rest easier in their beds.

Harry Sharples

Harry Sharples

UG Philosophy and Politics, Guitar Enthusiast, Smiths Enjoyer

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