Students force U-turn over cuts to law lectures

May 21, 2009

Students at the University of Manchester have forced its School of Law into a U-turn over plans to reduce lecture hours.

Protesters backed by the University of Manchester Students' Union staged a sit-in at the school and walked out of a lecture over plans to cut lectures from 30 to 20 hours per module and replace them with "frequently asked question sessions".

Managers argued that the changes would improve the quality of students' learning experience, but the students' union was unconvinced. Chris Jenkinson, its academic affairs officer, obtained papers from the School of Law's board that discuss the need to decrease staff teaching time to aid research.

Kate Little, the students' union representative for the School of Law, said that following the protests, Alan Gilbert, vice-chancellor of Manchester, refused to back the plans because students had not been consulted.

"There is now a working group, on which myself and two course representatives sit, that will discuss in full any proposed changes to the curriculum: this will not happen again," she said.

Manchester is currently in the middle of an extensive review of its teaching and learning. "It is unlikely that the plans would have been approved as they appeared to detract from the learning experience without giving anything in return," Ms Little said.

She added that she hoped the U-turn would remind others to be more wary of "trying to pull a fast one on their students".

A Manchester spokesman said: "The school had sent out a letter suggesting that lectures would be cut from 30 to 20 hours per module, as part of the university's teaching and learning review, replacing the ten hours with quality face-to-face teaching time. Profes-sor Gilbert overruled this announcement."

At the University of Sussex, the students' union has backed a campaign against the closure of linguistics courses by asking final- year undergraduates to withdraw their responses from the National Student Survey.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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