The History of Art department has run a heavily criticised ‘first-come-first-served’ module sign up system for the first time this year, leading to a number of complaints from students.
Students were requested to be present at the department in order to choose their modules for the following year. Second-year students were given first preference, whilst first years were invited to queue later on. The first student arrived in the department at 5.45am.
Many students have expressed their discontent with the system. First-year History of Art student and newly-elected University Senate Representative, Alexander J. Allison, said: “The misleading structure of the queue based system led many to believe that, should they turn up on time, they would be allocated the courses they desired. However, in reality the British desire to queue well in advance led to the whole process being absolutely farcical.”
By midday, first-year students with packed lunches crowded around bins in the waiting area of the History of Art department in preparation for their sign up at 2pm. Due to the number of students arriving early, their sign up commenced 20 minutes before schedule.
Charlie Leyland, Academic Affairs Sabbatical Officer, has commented: “Students want to know exactly what they can expect when signing up to a course.” She expressed a need to benchmark module choice arrangements against those at other universities.
Trevor Sheldon, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, has expressed his support for the Union through a tabling meeting to address equity, “all students must have equal opportunity to get desired module choices”, to be presented to the University Teaching Council in June.
Other departments, such as Management, use the same modular choice system. The History of Art department has implemented the system after careful deliberation over the most fair way to allocate module choices. Off-campus and combined course students, however, feel that they are disadvantaged through this arrangement.
“It is important that we look at ways in which we can communicate the way modules will be allocated and that this is done fairly and consistently.”
YUSU Academic Officer
Lydia Blundell, a second-year History of Art student, said that “the idea in principle is a good one – giving choice into hands of students, but the way organised was pretty bad… it puts unnecessary stress on students.”
Leyland continued to say that “it is important that we look at ways in which we can communicate the way modules will be allocated and that this is done fairly and consistently… and to know what the current practice is, and how we can improve the student experience with the best bits.”
Another first-year History of Art student, who wished to remain anonymous, has stated: “People turned up like it was like a Harry Potter booking signing or bidding for Glastonbury tickets, practically camping over night. I’d rather be in bed! This isn’t really what I expected to be doing within my degree course at all.”
Another first-year student commented that “considering that I was around 13th in the queue, there was only one out my top five choices left, which goes to show that when they tell you how many choices to make, it’s not that democratic anyway. I felt sorry for the people at the end of the queue, I got there over an hour-and-a-half early and still didn’t get exactly what I wanted.”
An email sent out in February to History of Art students, from Dr Jason Edwards, Chair of the Board for Art History, stated that the department were “confident that this new system will remain democratic and fair and very much hope that we can honour the first choices of as many students as possible.”
He added: “It may also be worth reporting that this is a system that is already in operation at a number of our peer institutions, both in the UK and US.”
Samia Calbayrac, first-year History of Art course representative, has commented that “the second-year students all had their first choices, whereas the first-years complained about the organisation of the system. Concerning the first choice, unfortunately, there will always be people who have their first choice and those who don’t.”
An electronic survey will take place next year in preparation for module choices.